Forrest Palmer, of Southbury, a World War II veteran and former president and publisher of The News-Times of Danbury, died Friday, Dec. 20, at 95.
He is survived by his wife of 34 years, Patricia, as well as his sons, Ray and his wife Linda, of Danbury, and James and his wife Catherine, of Normal, Ill.; in addition to four stepsons, Martin Bailey and his wife Lisa, of Newtown; Owen Bailey and his wife Laurie, of Goleta, Calif.; David Bailey of Lakewood, Colo.; and Hugh Bailey and his wife Carrie of Oxford; as well as numerous grandchildren.
He was predeceased by a brother, Walter.
He was born April 28, 1924, in Waterbury to the late Ray and Lillian (Landgren) Palmer. He grew up during the Great Depression and attended schools in Plymouth, Conn., describing his first school as an old wooden building with no indoor plumbing. He graduated from Terryville High School.
In 1943, he entered the Army during his senior year of high school and served with the 296th Engineer Combat Battalion, which fought from Omaha Beach in Normandy all the way to Berlin, becoming the first American battalion to enter the German capital in the war's closing months. The 296th earned five battle stars over the course of the war. Forrest was deeply proud of his service, even as he acknowledged that "the bitter experience of war is that it forever alters the life you led before. You are never the same person."
Later, he enrolled with the GI Bill at Hobart College in Geneva, N.Y., where he earned his undergraduate degree, and attended graduate school at the University of Chicago.
He began his work in newspapers with the Waterbury Republican-American in 1951 where he held a number of positions in the newsroom before leaving to become editor and eventually publisher of The News-Times. Under his leadership, The News-Times was several times named the best newspaper in New England in its circulation category.
He believed strongly in the importance of local newspapers that keep readers informed about the world around them. He focused on the importance of open government and watchdog journalism that keeps public servants honest.
He was president of the Connecticut Daily Newspaper Association, the Connecticut Council of Freedom of Information and the Connecticut Foundation for Open Government. As a newspaper executive, he championed the hiring of minorities and the promotion of women to executive positions, and in 1966 he wrote a report for the Associated Press Managing Editors Association on the lack of African-Americans in the nation's newsrooms. He was also a leader in the Danbury community, serving as a director and chairman of the United Way, president of the Rotary Club and a director of the former Hanahoe Children's Clinic, among other positions.
His first wife, Mary, died in 1975 after 27 years of marriage; a second marriage ended in divorce. In 1985, when he and Patricia married, he became stepfather to four boys ranging in age from 7 to 17, taking on yet a new challenge. After retirement, he remained active by serving on the Bethel Board of Education and Bethel Library Board of Trustees. He researched and wrote a history of his Army battalion that is on file at the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, Pa. He and his wife moved to Heritage Village in Southbury in 2006, where he continued to stay active on local boards and committees. Throughout his life he developed great respect for people who work on public and nonprofit organizations, particularly volunteers.
Forrest was admired, respected and loved by all who knew him. His hope was to be remembered as a responsible citizen, journalist and parent.
In lieu of flowers, donations in Forrest's memory can be made to the Connecticut Food Bank. A graveside service will be held on Saturday January 25, 2019 at 11:30 am at Evergreen Cemetery, Watertown, Ct.
To send flowers to Forrest's family, please visit our floral section.