A Regal Newsman

By David Abel  |  Globe Staff  |  3/11/2001

HOLYOKE - He was blunt but sympathetic, a Republican who was in many ways a liberal, a newsman described as exuding an air of noblesse oblige, a businessman who didn't care much for the bottom line, and a man born into the Depression who survived wounds in Korea and who lived quixotically.


But what William Dwight, newspaper publisher, entrepreneur, and unofficial mayor of Holyoke, may be remembered for most was his roaring laugh.

So when his son, Bill Dwight, spoke of his late father yesterday afternoon at a packed funeral service in St. Paul's Episcopal Church in the center of Holyoke, he avoided folksy homilies and asked the friends and family in attendance to forgo the traditional moment of silence. Instead, he asked the well-wishers to send off the 71-year-old former Marine, publisher of the local Transcrpt-Telegram newspaper, and restaurateur with a standing ovation and a booming round of applause.

"The deafening absence of my father's laugh at my funniest lines is more silence than I can handle right now," his son said. "I think he would prefer noise anyway. A lot of it."

Dwight, who died Monday from heart disease, was the grandson of William G. Dwight, who founded what was then the Holyoke Transcript in 1881. A year after graduating from Princeton University in 1951, he was wounded as a Marine Corps platoon commander while defending a small area of the 38th parallel in Korea.

It didn't take long after that for Dwight to enter the family business. While he dabbled in politics, working as an aide to Congressman Silvio Conte, he made his way up the ranks at the Transcript-Telegram, working as a reporter, editor, and eventually publisher.

But his tenure at the top of his family's small newspaper didn't last long. Dwight had a different take on the news from his father, William Dwight Sr., and he wasn't afraid to assert his views. After about five years, Dwight Sr. had had enough and he asked his son to resign. A man who rarely had trouble acknowledging his flaws, the burly son was candid about his experience as publisher.

"They [the board] said, `Don't tell anyone you were terminated; save face,' " he told a reporter at his newspaper shortly afterward. "Well, I'm not the least bit ashamed. One thing I'd like to tell the people at the T-T is that I did not go willingly. I'm not about to say I'm perfect; I know I made mistakes. But I did not go out with my head hanging down, and it still doesn't hang down."

After leaving the Transcript-Telegram, he decided to do something he always wanted to do: He opened a restaurant in Holyoke. He ran the Golden Lemon for several years, but it eventually went out of business. 

"The problem was he just gave too many things away," a friend said.

Dwight spent his remaining years as an economic adviser to Congressman John W. Olver and as a tutor at Holyoke Community College.

He leaves his wife, Julie, four children, a brother and sister, and six grandchildren.

In describing his father to the hundreds who came to St. Paul's, yesterday, Bill Dwight used the words his father once used in describing himself to a newspaper reporter:

"I drink too much, I laugh too loud, I love too hard."

David Abel can be reached at dabel@globe.com.  Follow him on Twitter @davabel.

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