From news to history: One newspaperman’s contribution to preserving Northwest Colorado history
January 7, 2017
Craig — A man who both left his own mark on Craig's history and has contributed immensely to its preservation passed away Dec. 28 at the age of 91.
Chuck Stoddard, Jr. was a newspaperman, a businessman, an elected official, a World War II veteran and even a real estate developer. In his later years, he also became a major contributor to the historical archives of The Museum of Northwest Colorado, where his records of decades’ worth of Craig history have done more to illuminate an era than just about anything else.
"If reconstructing history is like putting together four legs of a chair, I think the newspaper… is two legs out of that chair," said museum director Dan Davidson. "You cannot get a picture of what was going on (without it). The majority of issues you can define history by are in that newspaper."
Born in Hayden in 1925, Stoddard got his introduction to the newspaper business at an early age when his father, Charles Stoddard, Sr., bought the Courier newspaper in Craig in 1927. Under his father's ownership, the paper merged with its competitor to become the Empire-Courier.
Starting out selling papers as a boy, Stoddard became the editor of his school paper at Colorado College. He returned home to Craig in 1950 after graduation to work at the Empire-Courier, in turn purchasing the paper in 1965.
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"This is what he always wanted to do and he enjoyed it," said his wife, Joann. The two met in college and married in 1951, marking the beginning of what would be a 65-year marriage.
"It was wonderful. We just got along beautifully, and I'm grateful for all the years we had," she said.
Among the more notable moments of Stoddard's career, he was elected president of the Colorado Press Association in 1962, which later earned him an invitation to lunch with President John F. Kennedy at the White House. There, he was actually seated next to the president.
But it was his dedication to his own community that most defined his career, first and foremost through his two and a half decades of work at the Empire-Courier.
"These guys were tremendously tied to their communities," Davidson said of Stoddard and newspapermen of his era. "They saw themselves as partly responsible for the success of that community… These guys were what anchored the community to who they were and where they were headed."
After selling the newspaper in 1974, Stoddard went on to serve on the Craig City Council for 12 years, including two years as mayor. He was also a lifelong Kiwanis Club member, served on the Colorado Highway Commission from 1966 to 1976, was an avid golfer and charter member of the Yampa Valley Golf Association and engaged in several different local business ventures.
To his nephew, Jeff Stoddard, he's remembered as both a quiet and private man, but also light-hearted and always ready with his dry wit.
"He was not a man of many words, but the words he chose were chock full of his sense of humor and very well spoken," Jeff said. "He was just a good, solid man of integrity."
Stoddard's dedication to the community of Craig and his legacy live on through countless donations he's made to collections at the Museum of Northwest Colorado, including thousands of photographic negatives from 1961 to 1965, Stoddard family newspaper memorabilia and his Navy uniform. Joann also donated her wedding dress.
But most of all, Stoddard was instrumental to creating the record of an entire generation through his work as a newspaperman.
"What he's done the most in my mind is he's helped preserve that history," Davidson said, with a deep respect and appreciation for the man. "You can't really stand up the history of this community alone without that paper. It's an amazing legacy really."