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Ward Bushee Jr., 79; Led Watsonville Paper to a Pulitzer

June 08, 2002|From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Ward H. Bushee Jr., 79, who was editor of the Watsonville, Calif., Register-Pajaronian when it won a Pulitzer Prize for public service in 1955, died of cancer Wednesday at his home in Aptos, Calif.

With fewer than 9,000 subscribers, the Register-Pajaronian was the smallest newspaper at the time to earn the Pulitzer. It won for its 1955 coverage exposing a cozy relationship between the district attorney and a Watsonville gambler.

Bushee served as managing editor for 33 years and editor for five years, retiring in 1989.

A native of Holyoke, Mass., he spent 43 years in journalism, beginning as a reporter for the Redding, Calif., Record Searchlight. He served in the Navy during World War II as an ensign on a fleet tug and saw duty in the Aleutians, the Central Pacific and Okinawa.

He arrived at the Watsonville paper in 1951, and over the next several decades led it in chronicling the changes that would transform the area, including a tripling of the local population and shifts in agricultural production from the once-dominant apple orchards to fields of flowers and strawberries.

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