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Newspaperman Bert West lived for headlines, deadlines

By Sonny Long
Jan. 28, 2013 at 5:03 p.m.
Updated Jan. 28, 2013 at 7:29 p.m.

Bert West, 86, a longtime newspaper man, died Thursday at 86.  Among them were papers in Port Lavaca, El Campo, Bay City, Edna and Yoakum.

BERT WEST SERVICES

Funeral services for Bert West will be at 2 p.m. Thursday at the First Presbyterian Church of Palacios, 501 Third St.

Bert West had newsprint in his veins.

West, 86, of Palacios, a veteran of six decades in the newspaper business, died Thursday at the computer in his home office.

On Tuesday night, he had covered the Palacios city council meeting as editor of the weekly Palacios Beacon.

Larry West, his youngest son, said his father passing away at the computer was no surprise.

"We've known when this day came, it would be at dad's desk, doing what he loved since the age of 6 - writing," he said.

"He had no hobbies such as fishing, hunting or camping. So, when he retired 15-plus years ago from the Herald-Times, we knew he'd get back into writing at some point.

"I thought he'd take a year off, but the desire to write was so strong and what he loved. His retirement lasted about three months.

"His life was making newspaper deadlines."

And West made a lot of those.

During his career, he worked for more than 30 papers in four states, mostly in Texas beginning in the mid-1950s.

Among those newspapers were publications in Port Lavaca, El Campo, Bay City, Edna and Yoakum. He also worked from Daingerfield in Northeast Texas to Dumas in the Panhandle to San Benito in the Rio Grande Valley.

In 1957, West became the first manager of the Port Lavaca bureau for the Victoria Advocate.

Among West's career highlights was covering the Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969 for the Houston Chronicle.

Mike McCracken, managing editor of the Yoakum Herald-Times since 2006, is West's grandson.

"I remember vividly the day my grandfather handed me a camera and said go shoot a football game," McCracken said.

"I told myself when I was young that I wouldn't get into the family newspaper business, but that's exactly what happened. I was hooked that first night I covered a high school football game.

"I've learned a lot from him and will surely miss calling him for advice. He was a great man, for sure," McCracken said.

According to the Texas Press Association's Golden 50 Award presented to West in 2002, "An Indiana farm boy who dreamed of being a newspaperman since he was 5 years old, West started his career Sept. 7, 1947, at the age of 20, when he went to work, at $35 per week, as one of two associate editors of The Horseman & Fair World, a weekly trade magazine devoted to the sport of harness horse racing, published in Indianapolis.

"He became editor of the magazine in 1949, at which time Billboard Magazine featured him as the youngest editor of any publication of worldwide circulation."

West's love for newspapers was not only instilled in McCracken, but all seven of West's children with his wife, the late Betty Lou West. They all worked in the newspaper business at one time or another.

At the time of his death, West was working with his son, Nick West, publisher of the Beacon, and Nick's son Ryan West, the publication's news editor.

Covering that city council meeting Tuesday night was typical West - who once served on the same governing body.

"Like all of us at small, community newspapers, he loved the people he covered," said Chad Ferguson, chairman of the board and immediate past president of the TPA and owner and editor of the Banner Press-Herald in Columbus. He had known West since the mid-1980s.

"When you're in a small community, you know everybody and feel like you touch everybody's lives. He loved writing about people in small communities."

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