The Minnesota Newspaper Association Half Century Club commemorates those who’ve worked in the industry for 50 or more years. Last year, Bruce Fenske of New Ulm joined the club.
Fenske started his newspaper career as a youth, starting as a carrier part-time and working while in high school. After college, he worked as a reporter and in advertising before spending 35 years as a publisher.
His entire journalism career was spent at his hometown newspaper — the New Ulm Journal. When he retired from the newspaper in October 2015, he said in an interview, “I never expected to come back to New Ulm. I had a degree in business administration [from the University of Minnesota], and had interviewed with a couple of insurance companies.”
But two months before his college graduation, Fenske was offered a job by his hometown paper. Fenske, whose mother, Betty, had worked at the Journal as a news editor, accepted the offer and spent the next 42 years at the newspaper.
Fenske died at his home in New Ulm on April 7. He would have turned 66 on April 22.
His first full-time job for the Journal was reporting and selling ads for the paper’s agribusiness section. After a year of that, he moved to the advertising department. In 1977, he was promoted to advertising director. In 1980, at age 29, he became the publisher.
During his time at the paper, he served on the Minnesota Newspaper Association’s board of directors for nine years and served as the group’s president in 2006.
Lisa Hills of the Minnesota Newspaper Association remembers the depth of his commitment:
“I became the executive director on July 1, 2006, and Bruce was the first president I worked with,” she said.
“You could always count on him. If he said he was going to do something, he followed through. If you had a meeting scheduled for 9 a.m., he’d be there at 7:30 a.m. He was always the first one there. He knew everybody. He was an all-around good guy. He was a good friend, and this is a big loss.”
In addition to running the Journal, Fenske also served as the regional manager for four newspapers owned by Ogden Newspapers (in New Ulm, Fairmont, Marshall and Blue Earth).
Fenske was involved with many community organizations in New Ulm. He served on the New Ulm Chamber of Commerce, the New Ulm Sister Cities Commission, the New Ulm Farm-City Hub Club, New Ulm Turnverein, Junior Pioneers and Masonic Lodge. He also served as an officer with his church.
Said New Ulm Mayor Robert Beussman: “Where can I start? Bruce and his family have always been a very integral part of New Ulm. ...
“I appointed Bruce to our Sister Cities Commission in 2013. The commission members elected him chair in 2014 and 2015. He continued being an active member. The two years that he was chairman were two of the best years the commission had. He was on top of every detail.
“Of all the things he did for his hometown, his newspaper, and journalism statewide, I will miss his tenacity on the Sister City Commission the most. Every one of our incoming interns from Germany adored him for all the extra time he spent with them to ensure their stay in New Ulm was a great experience.”
In addition to his mother, Fenske is survived by his son Eric, a structural engineer in Chicago; his daughter Sara, a nurse in Minneapolis, and sisters Lynn Ries of North Mankato and Sandy Fenske of Medina. Fenske’s wife, Barbara, died in 2011. They were married 36 years. Services have been held.