E. Ralph Hostetter, the former publisher and owner of the Cecil Whig and current chairman and publisher of American Farm Publications Inc., died Tuesday of heart disease at his home in North East. He was 97.
Edward Ralph Hostetter — he never used his first name — was born and raised in Rowlandsville in Cecil County. He was the son of Abraham Hostetter, the Pennsylvania Railroad stationmaster in Port Deposit, and his wife, Martha Woodrow Hostetter, a homemaker.
He graduated in 1940 from the Tome School in Port Deposit and in 1941 enlisted in the Navy as an apprentice seaman. In 1943, he was assigned to the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps at Harvard University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in 1945.
Mr. Hostetter was discharged with the rank of ensign in 1946, and was recalled in 1950 during the Korean conflict, where he served as an officer in Naval Intelligence until being discharged with the rank of lieutenant.
He entered the newspaper business in 1948, at age 25, as editor of the Cecil Whig, and later purchased it and went on in 1957 to establish the Tri-State Publishing Co., which included 13 other newspapers. In 1975, he sold the company to Whitney Communications Corp. of New York.
At the time of his death, Mr. Hostetter was chairman and publisher of American Farm Publications Inc. of Easton, which publishes The Delaware Farmer and The New Jersey Farmer newspapers.
Mr. Hostetter was elected to the Maryland-Delaware-DC Press Association Hall of Fame in 1990, and had served as its president in 1962 and 1963.
For more than two decades, he was a director of County Banking and Trust Co. in Elkton and Catalyst Recovery Inc. in Baltimore, and was the former chairman of Ambassador Travel Service in Wilmington, Del. He also had been vice president of Pennsylvania’s Strasburg Rail Road Co.
He had served on the board of governors of Washington College and had been a member of the board of Elkton’s Union Hospital. In 2006, he was named Cecil County’s Citizen of the Year by the Elkton Chamber of Commerce.
A world traveler, he also maintained homes on Prince Edward Island and in Jackson Hole, Wyo.
He was the author of “Publisher’s Notebook,” and his autobiography, “Something Ventured: Portrait of an American Dreamer — E. Ralph Hostetter,” will be published this year.
His wife of 68 years, the former Edith “Edie” White, died in 2016.
Funeral services will be held at 2:30 p.m. Monday at the Tome School at 581 S. Maryland Ave. in North East.
He is survived by a son, Edward R. Hostetter of Houston; five daughters, Elsa Nastase of North East, Lisa Williams of New Market, Leslee Parsons of Crozet, Va., Edie Hess of Richmond, Va., and Karla Capobianco of Old Bridge, N.J.; 13 grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren.