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Claire and Ralph Hunter, pictured at the Longboat Key Historical Society's 2012 Fish Fry. (File photo)
Longboat Key Monday, Dec. 16, 2013 3 years ago

Former Longboat Observer co-owner Claire Hunter dies

by: Robin Hartill Managing Editor

Claire Hunter, wife of Longboat Observer founder Ralph Hunter and co-owner of the newspaper for 17 years, died Sunday night at her home in Bradenton.

Retired Longboat Observer Senior Editor Dora Walters described the Hunters as a team.

“He was the dreamer, the idea man,” Walters said of Ralph Hunter. “It was Claire that saw that his ideas materialized and deadlines were met (and) kept him down to earth at times.”

Ralph Hunter printed the first issue of the Longboat Observer July 28, 1978, just over three months before he and Claire married. At the time, Claire was working with the De Soto Celebration in Bradenton.

But Ralph Hunter wasn’t prepared for the September slowness, and the paper stopped printing after just seven issues. After the paper closed, Ralph and Claire decided to marry. They restarted the paper Oct. 13, 1978, and married Nov. 1, 1978 — then honeymooned at Longboat Key Town Hall, where they covered a commission meeting that night.

Ralph was the sole employee until Claire joined the staff in January 1979.

Under the Hunters, the paper grew from four pages and two staffers to as many as 72 pages and 20 employees.

Claire was known as a meticulous copy editor and grammarian.

Both Hunters were known for their tough standards.

Bob Lewis, multimedia advertising consultant for the Observer Media Group, who first joined the Longboat Observer staff as production manager in 1991, remembers how Claire spent a week with him explaining her expectations.

“After a couple of weeks Ralph came to me and said, ‘Well, you passed the toughest test: Claire's happy!’” Lewis wrote in an email.

But they also had a soft spot for their employees.

“If you worked for them, you were family,” said retired senior advertising executive Wendi Simons.

The Hunters sold the Longboat Observer in March 1995 to current owners Matt and Lisa Walsh and Lisa’s father, David Beliles.

In retirement, both Hunters were active in the Longboat Key Historical Society, Longboat Key Garden Club and Longboat Key Republican Club, while Claire also served as an officer with the local Wellesley College alumni group.

The Hunters moved from Longboat Key to Bradenton in 2010.

For more information, pick up a Dec. 19 copy of the Longboat Observer.

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