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41st Annual Professional Recognition Awards and Scholarship Banquet

April 27, 2019, 6 PM cocktails, 7 PM dinner

at Genesee Grande, 1060 East Genesee St, Syracuse

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Our Rundown


Walter Grunfeld

Marathon Independent

Club President: 1993-94

Walter W. Grunfeld, who witnessed the horror of Nazi Germany as a child, grew up to chronicle the lives of people in the Cortland County Village of Marathon.
For 32 years, he owned and ran the Independent Newspapers of Marathon, a weekly paper bonded to its readership by fondness and familiarity. He wrote about wedding anniversaries and newborns, and he printed school lunch menus and town meeting schedules. But Grunfeld's journalistic reputation extended far beyond Central New York.

He served as president of the New York State Press Association in Albany, the National Newspaper Association in Washington and, in later years, the Syracuse Press Club. Grunfeld won numerous honors, including the 1980 National Amos Award, considered the highest recognition to be given in weekly journalism. He was a member of the New York State Committee on Open Government.

But Grunfeld's passion was Marathon, a rural community 14 miles south of Cortland. He bought the newspaper in 1955 and sold it 1987.

"The Marathon Independent belonged to another time in our history," Grunfeld wrote in his farewell column. "It was in its prime when small towns were the center of life in rural America."

The times changed, but Grunfeld saw no reason to leave.

"Everything's cozy ... that's why I like it here," he said in 1987. "I feel comfortable here. People aren't superficial."

Grunfeld warned young reporters never to judge their work by the praise they receive. "A good newspaper person is not beloved, but respected," he said in 1990. "I don't think I'm beloved."

He was wrong on that. Whether he was gaveling to order a raucous Syracuse Press Club meeting or reading some obscure literary passage in a session of the Syracuse James Joyce Club, Grunfeld's characteristic wit and charm won many friends. But often, when he spoke publicly, Grunfeld chose not to entertain.

A lifelong mission was to report about one event that never ceased to haunt him.

On Nov. 10, 1938, as a 10-year-old boy growing up in the German city of Baden-Baden, Grunfeld watched Nazi storm troopers round up the professional Jewish men and parade them through the streets. One of the victims was his father, Max, a cantor at the local synagogue.

"I accompanied my father to the police station. Then I went off to school. I'll never forget that scene," Grunfeld said years later. "He was going in one direction and I was heading in another."

The Nazis pushed the Jewish citizens into the synagogue. They forced them to sing Nazi anthems and read out loud Hitler's anti-Semitic "Mein Kampf." When they were done, they burned the place to the ground.

That event, known as Kristallnacht, or the "Night of Broken Glass," is considered to have launched the Holocaust.

"He could not believe it," Grunfeld said years later of his father. "He said, ?I am a lover of Goethe, of Beethoven. How could they do this?"'

In 1939, Grunfeld and his sister fled to London. He came to the United States in 1947.

Grunfeld launched his newspaper career as a reporter for the Waverly Sun, a weekly near Elmira. At 27, he bought the Marathon newspaper.

Grunfeld co-founded the Marathon Maple Festival, was named 1994 Marathon Lions Club Citizen of the Year and served for 17 years as a member of the College Council of the State University College at Cortland. He served as president of Congregation B'Rith Sholom in Cortland.

In 1988, Grunfeld returned to Baden-Baden in hopes of better understanding what happened. He spoke to about 35 people. "I wasn't looking for any confession, feelings of guilt, or people saying they feel remorseful," he told a reporter. "I just wanted to go back and see who these people are."

Grunfeld said he'd found faith in the people of Marathon and in the reporting of newspapers. Despite the trauma, his philosophy was clear on the letterhead of his commercial printing business, which he ran with the paper for 45 years.

It said this: "Marathon Printing and Publishing, where miracles happen every day."

Walter Grunfeld died Dec. 23, 2000. He was 72.
-- Hart Seely, Syracuse Herald American
Last Updated ( Monday, 17 November 2008 01:09 )
    "Their constant yelping about a free press means, with a few honorable exceptions, freedom to peddle scandal, crime, sex, sensationalism, hate, innuendo and the political and financial uses of propaganda. A newspaper is a business out to make money through advertising revenue. That is predicated on the circulation and you know what circulation depends on."
--Raymond Chandler

Wall of Distinction

Joseph V. Ganley

Herald American
Club President: 1951-52

   Joe Ganley's romance with newspapers started by chance while taking part in his other great love --- a round of golf. Joe was working as a caddy at Bellevue Country Club because he had been laid off from his job at a steel plant.

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