We’ve lost a great friend (Editorial)
America has lost a great patriot, and we have lost a great friend.
E. Ralph Hostetter, owner of American Farm Publications Inc., and publisher of The New Jersey Farmer, The Delmarva Farmer and Shore Home & Garden Magazine, died peacefully in his sleep on March 26 at his home in North East, Md. He was 97.
“I speak for the entire staff when I say that Ralph will truly be missed at American Farm Publications,” said AFP General Manager Renee 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 New Jersey Farmer and are grateful for their continued support.”
Bruce Hotchkiss, the founding editor of The New Jersey Farmer, now retired, echoed the 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.”
We have been assured that it will be “business as usual,” but it is with heavy hearts that we put together this issue. There are still a few of us who have worked for and with Ralph for four decades.
His obituary, beginning on the front page, only hints at the fascinating life he led — from a childhood on the Susquehanna River which destroyed the family home in a flood to being at the right place at the right time on so many occasions, and having the gumption to take a risk, often when he had no money in hand to fund the venture. Most of the time, the venture paid off.
A champion of individual liberty, Ralph often wrote columns warning of the erosion of our Constitutional Rights. In 1968 he was elected as a delegate to the Maryland Constitutional Convention and is credited by that body’s president for “single-handedly destroying the concept of a new constitution for the state of Maryland.” The proposed new state constitution omitted the right to Common Law of England on which many state statutes were based, and Ralph campaigned against ratification.
He stood at the North Pole and visited Antarctica and would submit his newspaper columns, written by hand in all capitals on a legal pad, from anywhere in the world.
He called himself “the Johnny Appleseed of the potato world” after introducing to Prince Edward Island, Canada, technology he found in Russia for producing disease-free seed potatoes.
After his wife of 68 years, Edie White Hostetter, died in 2016, Ralph began work on his autobiography, which his family and friends will finish for him. In this book, “Something Ventured: Portrait of an American Dreamer: E. Ralph Hostetter,” Ralph shares many of the stories that held audiences spellbound — some that seemed beyond possible, but always proved to be true.
We will miss those stories, and we will miss him.
In a cemetery near their home, Ralph had a mausoleum built where he will be laid to rest beside his beloved wife. On the steps, these words are etched into stone: “They lived the American dream.”
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