Obituaries published in the April 2021 edition of the Texas Press Messenger.
SCHULENBURG – Maxine Vyvjala, long-time owner and operator of the Schulenburg Sticker, died Feb. 10. She was 83.
Vyvjala and her late husband, Joe, ran the newspaper together for more than 40 years and she continued following his death in 2017.
A native of Flatonia, she graduated from Baldwin Business College in Yoakum. While taking classes there, she served as reporter for the Student Club. She worked in banking before taking over bookkeeping/accounting duties at the Sticker.
Married in 1959, the couple moved to Schulenburg when Joe began working for the newspaper. For 18 months, beginning in 1967, they leased the Sticker. In 1975, along with Maxine’s brother, Max Nikel, Sr., they bought the newspaper.
In 1977, she left banking and went to work for the newspaper, handling the bookkeeping, setting up ads, taking pictures and working in the darkroom. In 1984, they became sole owners of the Sticker.
In 1994, Vyvjala bought her hometown paper, the Flatonia Argus, in partnership with her son-in-law, Paul Prause. She remained an owner until 2019.
They were beloved members of the South Texas Press Association for many years. In 2014, they received the STPA Chester Evans Award for their support of the organization.
She was an avid league bowler and competed in numerous tournaments throughout the state.
She was a member of St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church in Schulenburg and, later, St. Mary’s Catholic Church in High Hill.
She is survived by two children, three grandchildren and other relatives.
Funeral services were held Feb. 13 at St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church.
COOPER – Longtime Cooper Review co-owner and publisher Jim Butler died March 6 at Baylor Medical Center. He was 71.
Born in 1950 in Waldron, Arkansas, Butler graduated from Waldron High School in 1968 and Arkansas Tech University in 1975.
He married his wife, Sally, in 1974 and they spent the next 46-plus years building a life in Northeast Texas. After starting his career in Dallas, Butler became the controller of Echo Publishing Company in Sulphur Springs in the early 1980s and remained with Echo until retirement in 2017, helping build the company from a small newspaper and printing operation into a multifaceted and successful media company. He continued assisting with Echo operations as an accounting consultant until his death.
In 2006, the Butlers purchased the Review, excited for the opportunity to build on the newspaper’s reputation as a strong, small Texas weekly. He became an active voice in Delta County, working tirelessly to support his adopted community. Earlier this year, he sold the Review to its current owners, his longtime friend and coworker Karrie Harmon and her daughter Rhandi Allred.
He is survived by his wife.
No formal or public services were held.
John Allen Lovelace
DALLAS – John Allen Lovelace, 89, died March 9, 2021.
A native of Olney, Lovelace grew up in Fort Worth and graduated in 1952 from North Texas State College with a journalism degree. He was a writer and editor for various newspapers and publications in Sherman and Tyler and Madison, Wisconsin.
After earning a master’s degree in religious journalism from Syracuse University in 1964, he wrote and edited for the All Church Press in Fort Worth, the United Methodist Publishing House in Park Ridge, Illinois and the United Methodist Reporter in Dallas.
He also taught journalism at Oklahoma Baptist University in Shawnee,OK.
Lovelace sang tenor in college and in church choirs, was an avid lover of classical music and was an amateur photographer. He and his wife were members of Oak Lawn and Highland Park United Methodist Churches.
He is survived by his wife of 68 years, Mary Ellen Lovelace, three children and three grandchildren.
Memorial services will be held at a later time. Memorial donations may be made to the United Methodist Committee on Relief, https://umcmission.org/umcor/.
J. Scott Russell
CARTHAGE – Veteran sports reporter J. Scott Russell, 59, died Feb. 15.
Russell worked for the Wichita Falls Times Record News for more than 25 years covering high school, college and professional sports. He also worked for more than six years at the Stephenville Empire-Tribune.
Russell started working for the Watchman in April 2018.
Originally from Rome, New York, Russell majored in mass communications at Abilene Christian University, while serving as both the assistant sports editor and the sports editor for The Optimist, the award-winning student newspaper.
During his time in Wichita Falls, Russell’s primary beats were Midwestern State football, Midwestern State women’s basketball and high school baseball. He was a four-time winner of the Lone Star Conference’s Sports Writer of the Year Award, and also received honors for his coverage of the 1990-91 Wichita Falls Texans, who captured the Continental Basketball Association title.
After joining the Watchman staff, Russell’s sports coverage and photography garnered him numerous regional and statewide awards.
He is survived by three sisters, three brothers and other relatives.
Services were held March 6 at The Hill Church West Campus in Fort Worth.
Memorial donations can be made to one of his favorite charities, Camp Hunt, P.O. Box 2358, Liverpool, NY, 13089.
Bill J. Knox
AMARILLO - Bill P. Knox, a long-time newspaper editor for the Amarillo Globe-News, died March 10, 2021, in Amarillo, where he had lived most of his life. He was 82.
A native of Hereford, Knox began his newspaper career at the Hereford Brand while he was student. He joined the Amarillo Globe News in 1960 and worked in various editing and layout capacities, serving as assistant news editor of the afternoon Globe-Times, Sunday editor of the News-Globe, and eventually as news editor of all editions, the position he held when he retired in 2001.
His co-workers remembered him as a dedicated professional of the old school, who believed the newspaper had a sacred trust within the community and who felt a responsibility to mentor successive generations of journalists who would one day themselves be custodians of that trust. His headline writing work and gift for page layout were recognized by the Texas Associated Press organization, according to an editorial about him in the Globe-News.
He punctuated his newspaper work with occasional freelance magazine articles about the history of the Panhandle area, and together with the late George Turner and Harry Gilstrap Jr. founded, published and wrote articles for a small, ad-free publication called “Southwest Heritage.” In 1988, he researched, wrote and published a history and compilation of descendants of his branch of the Knox family. Upon his retirement, he began work on another edition. He also continued volunteer work and civic activities in retirement.
A memorial service was held March 15 at Southwest Church of Christ in Amarillo.
HOUSTON – Leon Hale, the dean of Houston newspaper columnists and one of the state’s most beloved writers, died March 27, just weeks short of his 100th birthday.
Hale retired in 2014 after more than 60 years as a columnist for the Houston Post and later the Houston Chronicle. Following retirement, he continued to blog for the Chronicle.
His columns were about everything from a Brazos River bottom fortuneteller to the best way to tell when spring has arrived — when the mesquite finally sprouts its leaves.
Hale started at the Houston Post in 1952, where he turned out dispatches for three decades before joining the Chronicle in in 1984.
He was a native of Stephenville, born May 30, 1921.
He attended Texas Tech University and served in the U.S. Army Air Corps in World War II, flying 50 missions in Europe as a combat gunner. Upon his return from military service in 1945, Hale returned to Texas Tech and obtained a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He declined a position with the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal and relocated to Houston.
Hale arrived in Houston in 1947 and took a non-newspaper job for a time. Years later he confessed that the job did not suit him, so he went to work for the Post. As a young man originally from what he referred to as “that West Cross Timbers country beyond Fort Worth,” Houston was an eye-opening experience for a young journalist, even for a World War II combat veteran.
“It was this great big old country town,” Hale said in 2007. “Hubert Mewhinney on The Post used to call it the ‘whiskey and trombone town’ — just kind of a rowdy place, and it was. It seemed like a terribly big and important city to me at that time.”
In addition to thousands of columns, Hale authored a dozen books, including collections of past stories that were popular when they ran in the Post and the Chronicle. He published his first novel, Bonney’s Place, in 1972. It gained a cult following, and although the film rights changed hands six times no movie was produced.
Among friends he mentioned on occasion in print were Madame Z, the Brazos Bottom fortuneteller, and Old Friend Morgan, who accompanied Hale on his annual searches for spring. There were other memorable characters, too, like his occasionally perplexed friend Mel and a talking mule who lived next to a farm road between New Ulm and Sealy.
“The last time I printed a mule interview here I was challenged by a couple of the customers to prove that I can really have a conversation with mules,” Hale wrote for the Chronicle in 2011.
“But that’s something I’m unable to prove because when another person is with me I can’t get a mule to utter a word.”
Hale’s travels included New York City and Normandy, France, but his most memorable works were penned in small towns like Jewett in Leon County, where in the mid-1960s he and the town’s mayor organized an impromptu 40-mile passenger train ride for two dozen school children and adults by flagging down a locomotive engineer.
“It has always pleased me to imagine that this was the last time a passenger train was flagged down to take on passengers,” Hale wrote in 1998. “Which is probably not true but I still like to think so.”
Hale was a member of The Texas Institute of Letters, which honored him with the Lon Tinkle Award for Excellence Sustained Throughout a Career. He also won numerous awards for fiction and non-fiction from the Headliners Foundation, United Press International and the Associated Press.
Hale and his wife, Babette, a writer and publisher in her own right, split their time between Houston and what he often called “the old country place in Winedale,” a small community on the Washington-Fayette county line. Hale’s last book, “See You Down the Road,” was published earlier this month.
Don Thomas Nelson
DIMMITT - Don Thomas Nelson, former editor and publisher of the Castro County News, died Aug. 26. He was 86.
Until his retirement in 2002, Nelson was editor and publisher of The Castro County News, a weekly newspaper that was owned and operated by his family since 1943. He grew up as a “printer’s devil” in the back shop, learned to set type and had a newspaper route.
A native of Roaring Springs, he graduated from Dimmitt High School and attended Texas Tech University one year on a vocal music scholarship. Later, he transferred to the University of Texas, where he worked his way through school as a typesetter. He served as night sports editor for The Daily Texan, the school’s student newspaper.
Nelson received his bachelor’s degree in journalism from UT in 1956. After serving two years in the U.S. Army, he was news editor for seven years at The Arizona Record, a national award-winning weekly in Globe, Ariz.
He returned to Dimmitt in 1966 to become a partner with his father, the late B.M. Nelson, in The Castro County News. He became the sole owner of the newspaper following his father’s retirement in 1984.
Through the years, the News earned awards at regional and state levels. Nelson also won national awards for column writing.
He served as president of the Panhandle Press Association in 1970-71. He also served on the UT System Chancellor’s Committee of Editors in 1972-73 and was a member of the Texas Tech Mass Communications Advisory Committee for many years, including one term as chairman of the journalism committee.
He was a member of the Society of Professional Journalists (Sigma Delta Chi) and the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas. He always was concerned with the ethics of the profession, especially as they apply to the unique position of the country editor. For a decade, he chaired an ethics panel at the Panhandle Press Association conventions, and in 1996 at the Texas Press Association at Midwinter Convention. At the 90th annual convention of the Panhandle Press Association in April 2000, he was inducted into the PPA Hall of Fame. And in June 2000, he was honored for his half-century journalism career with a “Golden 50 Award” by the Texas Press Association.
Nelson was also very active in the Dimmitt community, serving as president of the Jaycees, Lions Club and County Activities Committee, an officer and director of the Chamber of Commerce and the Dimmitt Satellite School and an advisor for the Interracial Youth Club. He chaired the American Field Service (AFS) Chapter in Dimmitt and was a mentor to numerous exchange students from across the globe who attended Dimmitt High School.
He was co-chairman of the Castro County Centennial Commission, which raised $100,000 to underwrite the county’s centennial celebration in 1991 and pay for construction of the Centennial Plaza and Gazebo on the courthouse square.
During the Centennial, his staff also produced a 116-page special edition. For his work on the centennial and for numerous contributions to Dimmitt and Castro County throughout his life, Nelson was honored as Dimmitt’s “Citizen of the Year” in 1992. He was also active in the First United Methodist Church of Dimmitt, serving as choir director and in other positions.
He married Verbie Bess Oldham, whom he met at Texas Tech, in 1954. She preceded him in death in 2014. He is survived by three children, six grandchildren, one great grandchild and other relatives. A service celebrating his life was held Aug. 31 at Dimmitt First United Methodist Church.