(June 30, 1928-May 23, 2019)
Stanley G. Witter Jr., one of Spokane’s early pioneers in television news in the 1950s and ‘60s, died May 23 at home with his final days and moments surrounded by his loving family. He was 90, with a birthday coming up next month.
His life was full of fascinating career and philanthropic endeavors, and a remarkable eye for photography, but above all he was a family man. A devoted husband and beloved father of three and grandfather of four, he was a steady source of affirmation and positive energy.
A charming sense of humor was one of his defining traits. Asked one time what he’d like said about him when he went to the Great Beyond, he quipped: “Tell ‘em the old devil wasn’t all bad. And then go have a glass of whiskey.”
In October 1953, he married his great love, June Gagliardi. He spotted her among a group of nursing students at the Park Inn and then learned her name two days later when her picture appeared in the Spokane Chronicle as part of a story on Scared Heart’s graduating class. Two attempts at a blind date were rebuffed “but I figured I should try one more time — I knew she was a gem.” They were married 42 years when June died in 1995. In recent years, watching the various milestones of his grandkids, he proudly referred to himself as “a lucky old grandpa.”
Except for three years in Western Washington early in his broadcasting career and a year in high school during World War II when his dad was deployed, he spent his entire life in Spokane. There wasn’t a restaurant or hardware store you could walk into without him knowing someone. And his recall of area sports teams from the 1930s and ‘40s — especially Washington State, Gonzaga and the Spokane Indians — was nearly encyclopedic.
He worked in both radio and television for Spokane stations KHQ and KREM and counted Edward R. Murrow, Joe Louis, Louis Armstrong and Pierre Salinger among his favorite interview subjects. He later embarked on a 23-year career as public relations spokesman for the Washington Water Power Co. (now Avista).
He spent 31 years in the military, earning numerous awards including the Aerospace Defense Command national public information officer of the year in 1974, and the Meritorious Service Medal before retiring as an Air National Guard lieutenant colonel in 1989. He also devoted countless volunteer hours to the United Way, Central Lions Club, Expo ’74 organizing committee, and the Spokane Coliseum and Stadium Advisory Board and Spokane Lilac Festival Association. In 1970-71, he served as Exalted Ruler of Spokane Elks Club 228.
A 1946 graduate of Lewis and Clark High, Stan was captain of the Tigers’ football and baseball teams and earned All-City football honors as a senior. He went on to become the starting catcher on Gonzaga University’s baseball team, and was a reserve on the Bulldogs basketball squad. He finished college at Eastern Washington, graduating in 1951 with degrees in both broadcasting and education. From 1959-62 he taught radio and broadcasting at Eastern as an adjunct instructor.
Stan is survived by his three children: Steve Witter (Shellie Witter) of Spokane, Kathy Witter Brindley (Ralph Brindley) of Mercer Island, and Greg Witter (Anne McGonigle) of Seattle; four grandchildren: Katie, Laura, Alexandra and Ryan; sisters-in-law Joan Gagliardi and Karen Volpatti; and numerous nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his wife June; parents, Katharine and Stan Sr.; brother George Witter and sister Doris Dullanty.
The family extends a heartfelt thank you to the wonderful employees at Touchmark, Hospice of Spokane and Home Care Assistance for their warm embrace of Stan.
A celebration of life will be held later this summer (time and place will be announced in these pages). Remembrances can be sent to the June Gagliardi Witter Scholarship Fund (for students from Spokane) at Washington State University (255 E Main St. #301, Pullman, WA 99163) or the Spokane Humane Society (6607 N. Havana St., Spokane, WA 99217).