Pioneering newspaper editor Julius Gius, who tweaked the powerful and supported the deserving of Ventura County for 36 years, died Friday at age 84.
Gius, who guided the Ventura Star-Free Press through nearly three decades of growth and turned the Thousand Oaks Chronicle into a daily newspaper, entered Community Memorial Hospital two weeks ago with a broken hip and died Friday morning of complications, according to his family.
"He was a very good, fair newspaperman. And he was a genuinely nice man. He was one of the good guys," said Robert Lagomarsino, a state lawmaker and congressman for many of the 27 years Gius edited Ventura's local newspaper, now the Ventura County Star.
"He was a guy with clout. He wasn't an easy mark," said Lagomarsino, who proudly displays a Gius column on his office wall, between letters from former President Ronald Reagan and former U.S. Sen. Barry Goldwater. "I didn't always agree with him. But I thought he always did the best he could. He took the time to make good decisions."
Local officials, friends, family and colleagues in the newspaper business responded similarly to Gius' death, noting his long list of contributions to his profession and community.
"He was the grand old man of newspapers in Ventura County," said Sheriff Larry Carpenter, who recalled Gius' clever, insightful summaries of the events of the week at Ventura's downtown Rotary Club.
Stan Whisenhunt, Gius' managing editor at the Star for 17 years, said: "If Ventura County had anybody who was almost larger than life, it would be Julius Gius. Back in '87, the Star did a survey of business leaders around the county, where they listed the most influential people . . . It was very embarrassing to Julius because he came out No. 2 or No. 3."
"He was honest and never mean-spirited in doing his job," Dist. Atty. Michael D. Bradbury said. "He was a gentle man through and through."
"He was a Democrat," daughter Barbara Gius Hill said. "But all of his best friends were Republicans. He was fair. And you could always see every side of the story in what he wrote."
During Gius' tenure, 1960-1987, the Star-Free Press grew with the community from a small-town newspaper in small offices in downtown Ventura to become the largest daily publication in a burgeoning urban county. Daily circulation increased from 23,000 to 48,000 during that period. Whisenhunt recalled that Gius would call every subscriber who canceled the newspaper to find out why.
As editorial director of John P. Scripps' newspapers, he also directed the transition of the Thousand Oaks Chronicle from a weekly to a daily three decades ago. Today the paper is a daily edition of the Star.
"When you look back on the columns he wrote, he had a special balance between being the community scold and the community conscience and the community cheerleader," said Tim Gallagher, current editor of the Ventura County Star. "He really cared deeply about the place. He understood that growth in Ventura was inevitable, but he truly wanted to preserve what made it special."
Gius also made his mark in Ventura County through community service before and after his retirement.
Until his death, he was an active trustee of Community Memorial Hospital. He was a longtime member of an advisory committee for the Ventura campus of Cal State Northridge, which awarded him an honorary doctorate of philosophy degree. He worked long and hard for the United Way of Ventura County, the Boy Scouts, the Salvation Army, the YMCA and Interface, a social service agency.
"There were so many organizations, I couldn't enumerate them all," his daughter said. "He was always very active up until two weeks ago."
Though an editor of smaller newspapers, Gius' world was large. He traveled extensively--joining a group of American editors who accompanied President Ford to China and President Carter to Europe and the Middle East.
He was born in Fairbanks, Alaska, on Dec. 31, 1911. He got his first taste of newspapering as a copy boy for the Tacoma Times at age 17. Gius was the founding editor of the Bremerton (Wash.) Sun in 1935, where he remained until his 1960 move to Ventura County.
"He always felt very fortunate," daughter Barbara said. "He traveled with presidents. He had a wonderful career."
Gius is survived by his wife Gail of Somis; daughter Barbara Gius Hill of Long Beach; son Gary Gius of Floresville, Texas; sister Esther Hager of Seattle; brother John Gius of Claremont; brother Cyril Gius of Studio City; and five grandchildren.
The Joseph P. Reardon Funeral Chapel in Ventura is handling funeral arrangements. A funeral Mass is scheduled at Sacred Heart Church on Henderson Road in east Ventura for 10 a.m. Tuesday.