Publisher Hostetter dies at 97

by | Mar 29, 2019

Though he always returned to Maryland’s Cecil County, E. Ralph Hostetter, here standing before the Grand Teton mountains, was well-traveled, making three round-the-world trips, visiting all seven continents and more than 100 countries. (Photo courtesy Hostetter family)

NORTH EAST, Md. — Newspapers, like farms, have several ways of measuring success. But whether judged in circulation totals or bushels per acre, it’s the people behind the numbers that tells the real story.

With the death last week of chairman and publisher of American Farm Publications and The Delmarva Farmer, E. Ralph Hostetter, “We lost one of our people — the person, really,” said Renee Van Pelt, American Farm Publications general manager. “And his story is truly remarkable.”

Mr. Hostetter died on March 26 at his Cecil County home. He was 97.

“I speak for the entire staff when I say that Ralph will truly be missed at American Farm Publications,” Van Pelt said. “Our staff luncheons will not be the same. He shared so many stories from his travels and business adventures and always had kind words for each and every one of us. He was not only a great businessman and leader but also a good person and I am blessed to have shared 35 years with him.

“To the Hostetter Family, we offer our deepest sympathies, and a promise that we will continue the mission of The Delmarva Farmer to serve farmers and the region’s agriculture community and are grateful for their continued support.”

In 1987, Mr. Hostetter purchased The Delmarva Farmer from Chesapeake Publishing Inc. and created American Farm Publications. AFP launched The New Jersey Farmer in 1988.

He was proud to serve farmers and their families with farm newspapers. In 2003, the New Jersey Agricultural Society awarded Hostetter the Gold Medallion, its highest award. He was elected to the Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Press Association Newspaper Hall of Fame in 1990. He joined that association at age 25 and served as president from 1962-1963.

Bruce Hotchkiss, the founding editor of The Delmarva Farmer, now retired, echoed praise for Ralph’s confidence and devotion to the farm newspaper.

“He was an extraordinary man and a devoted friend,” Hotchkiss said. “I worked for Ralph for 40 years. They were the most rewarding and exciting years of my 65 years in the news business.

“He had an extraordinary sense of leadership.  In the beginning, he shared his concept of a farm newspaper — “The voice of the farmer,” he said — and simply suggested how to go about it.

“He commented to us on how to do the job, which we accomplished under his watchful eye and relaxed surveillance. 

“My memories of those years with Ralph — the luncheons, the meetings, the conferences, and his confidence in me, will always remain. The Delmarva Farmer was one of his dreams. I am proud to have shared it with him.”

Mr. Hostetter lived his entire 97 years in Maryland. He called Cecil County home and was fond of saying, “My diamonds were in my back yard. I didn’t have to search the world looking for them.”

Though his treasures were close by, Mr. Hostetter was well-traveled. Italian explorer Marco Polo was one of Mr. Hostetter’s role models for travel. Over half a century, he made three round-the-world trips, visiting all seven continents and more than 100 countries. North Dakota is the only state he never visited. Family recalled Mr. Hostetter was very proud of the page in his passport that shows both Timbuktu and Kalamazoo. 

He would tell stories of seeing the world by car, bus, delayed flight, Yellowstone bus, Russian ice breaker, Trans-Siberian rail, sluggish mule, slippery camel, Asian elephant, private plane and the Concorde. He also loved sharing with family and friends the homes he and wife Edie built on Prince Edward Island (Camelot East) and Jackson Hole, Wy. (Camelot West).

In his book, “Publisher’s Notebook,” Mr. Hostetter shared a compilation of the columns and commentaries as they appeared in the pages of The Delmarva Farmer under a column of the same name. Many of Hostetter’s columns also were published on About the book, Bruce Hotchkiss, senior editor of American Farm Publications, wrote, “True to adage, Ralph’s pen surely is mightier than the sword and, beware, it’s just as sharp.”

His autobiography, “Something Ventured: Portrait of an American Dreamer – E. Ralph Hostetter” is in final production. In it Hostetter wrote, “What is indisputably true is that at almost every turn, my success along the path has been a result of the generosity of family, friends and mentors willing to share their knowledge, support my ventures and, in some cases, invest in my dreams.

“Basically, I’m a dreamer. I’m always thinking, always dreaming so to speak. From dreams come ideas. Some ideas are good, some not so good. Wonder wisely. If you dream and come across an idea that appeals to you, you can then extend and build upon that dream until it takes natural form. And that’s being an entrepreneur.”

Mr. Hostetter was born in Rowlandsville, Md., on Jan. 14, 1922. He began his education at The Tome School in Port Deposit and graduated as president of the Class of 1940. He was instrumental in helping to establish a secure future for the school after fire destroyed one of the buildings in 1969. He met his wife, Edith White, at Tome School. His six siblings, six children and two grandchildren all attended Tome School in Port Deposit or North East. In 1947 he was named Trustee of The Jacob Tome Institute at age 25 and was still serving in an Emeritus position at his death. He was named Tome Alumnus of the Century in 1989. 

Enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1941 as an apprentice seaman, Mr. Hostetter was assigned in 1943 to the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps at Harvard University, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in 1945. He was released from World War II service in 1946 with the rank of ensign. Recalled into the U.S. Navy in 1950 during the Korean War, he served as a naval intelligence officer until his release in 1952 with the rank of lieutenant, senior grade. 

Mr. Hostetter entered the newspaper business in 1948, at age 25, as editor of the Cecil Whig, a job for which he had no formal training. He later bought the paper and went on to form Tri-State Publishing Co., building a chain of 13 newspapers from 1957-75 when it was sold to Whitney Communications Corp. of New York. Mr. Hostetter pioneered newspaper production technology in 1960 when Tri-State moved from a sheet-fed press to web offset printing by purchasing and operating one of only three offset presses east of the Mississippi River. 

He served for over 20 years as a director for County Banking and Trust Company in Elkton, Md.; vice president of Strasburg Rail Road Co., in Strasburg, Pa.; owner of Camelot East Farms, in Prince Edward Island, Canada; a director for Catalyst Recovery Inc. in Baltimore; and former chairman of Ambassador Travel Service in Wilmington, Del.

Active in civic affairs, Mr. Hostetter served as chairman of the building committee and as a member of the Board of Directors for Union Hospital of Elkton, Md.; was the first president of the Maryland State Chamber of Commerce serving from 1971-72; a member of the Board of Directors of Free Congress Foundation in Washington, D.C.; and was a Rotary Paul Harris Fellow. 

From 1991-99, he was president and director of Physicians for Peace in Norfolk, Va.; chairman and executive editor of American Investigator Television Productions in Washington, D.C.; a member of the Governor’s Commission to Study State Aid to Non-Public Schools from 1969-70; A member of the Maryland Judicial Selection Commission for Appellate Courts from 1970-78; and served on the Board of Governors for Washington College in Chestertown, Md. 

He was elected a Member of the Maryland Constitutional Convention in 1967 and was named Cecil County’s 2006 Citizen of the Year by the Elkton Chamber of Commerce and the Elkton Alliance. 

Survivors include daughters, Elsa Nastase (Gheorghe) of North East, Md.; Lisa Williams of New Market, Md.; Leslee Parsons (Bryan) of Crozet, Va.; Karla Capobianco (Rich) of Old Bridge, N.J.;  Edie Hess (Alan) of Richmond, Va.; and son, Edward R. Hostetter, Jr. (Carol) of Houston, Texas; grandchildren, E. Niculae Nastase, (Mayumi); Alexandra Alexander (Brett), Christian Williams (Francesca), Andrea Williams, Erik Lindquist (Carmen), Elise Lindquist, Evan Lindquist, Joseph Capobianco, Cody Capobianco, Analis Capobianco, Whitney Alan Hess, Olivia Reese Hess, and Elizabeth Hostetter; great grandchildren, Mason and Ethan Alexander, Lucas, Caleb, Zoey and Mya Lindquist and Roytaro Orihara; as well as many nieces and nephews.

In addition to his wife of 68 years, he was predeceased by his parents, Martha (Woodrow) and Abraham Hostetter; three sisters, Charlotte, Alyce and Martha; three brothers, John, Abraham and Robert; son-in-law, C. Larry Williams and granddaughter, Erin Lindquist. 
Funeral services for Mr. Hostetter were held on Monday, April 1 at The Tome School in North East. Interment was at the North East United Methodist Cemetery.

Memorial donations may be made to The Tome School, 581 South Maryland Avenue, North East, MD 21901.

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P.O. Box 2026 Easton, MD 21601-8925

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