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Longboat Key Friday, Feb. 26, 2016 5 years ago

Longboat Observer founder Ralph Hunter dies at 95

Ralph Hunter founded the Longboat Observer in 1978 in part because he was bored with retirement.
by: Robin Hartill Managing Editor

Longboat Observer founder Ralph Hunter died this morning. He was 95.

Hunter founded the Longboat Observer more than 37 years ago, in part because he was bored in retirement but also to counter the Anna Maria Islander, a paper he viewed as liberal and loving scandal.

Hunter published the first four-page issue of the Longboat Observer July 28, 1978, in the midst of the slow summer season.

“We said, ‘Let’s get our mistakes out of the way in the summer,’” Hunter recalled in 1998.

His only employees were his daughter, Janet, and soon-to-be-wife, Claire.

The free weekly newspaper published just seven issues before Hunter ran out of money and suspended operations.

The hiatus lasted just five weeks.

Hunter published the newspaper again Oct. 13, 1978, and the paper hasn’t missed a week since then.

Less than three weeks later, Hunter married Claire. They honeymooned that night at Longboat Key Town Hall, covering a commission meeting.

Born in 1920 in Brooklyn, N.Y., Hunter moved with his family to Scarsdale, N.Y. in the late 1920s and went on to attend Wesleyan University, in Middletown, Conn.

Upon graduation, he was drafted into the Air Corps and spent three years as an enlisted man. He went on to attend officer candidate school and joined the First Cavalry Division in Tokyo as a second lieutenant.

After he was discharged, he stayed in Japan for four years running Japanese-language radio stations.

Hunter returned to the U.S. in 1949 and earned a master’s degree in radio and television at Syracuse University.

He began his career in television as a studio supervisor for NBC in New York and went on to work at several radio and TV stations, eventually selling time on TV throughout the country and becoming a radio/TV broker.

Hunter moved to Cape Cod, Mass., in the 1960s to raise his children, Bruce and Janet, and started a radio station.

His first retirement began in 1974 at age 55.

Hunter discovered Longboat Key after getting lost while visiting an Army buddy who lived in Sarasota.

In addition to starting the Longboat Observer in retirement, he also opened another radio station, WWOJ-FM, in Avon Park/Sebring, that he sold in 1984.

The Hunters sold the Longboat Observer to Matt and Lisa Walsh in 1995; the newspaper is now part of the Sarasota-based Observer Media Group.

For the full story, pick up the March 3 issue of the Longboat Observer.


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