Former Keystone SPJ president dies



Obituary from the Standard Speaker, 2/13/2017

Walter M. Brasch, Ph.D., 71, of 2460 Second St., Bloomsburg (Espy), died Thursday in Geisinger Medical Center, Danville, surrounded by his family.

He was an award-winning former newspaper reporter and editor in California, Iowa, Indiana and Ohio; professor emeritus of mass communications and journalism at Bloomsburg University; and an award-winning social issues journalist and book author.

Walter was born March 2, 1945, in San Diego, the son of Milton Brasch and Helen Haskin Brasch, and was a 34-year resident of Espy.

In his early years, he was a writer-producer for multimedia and film companies in California, and a copywriter and political analyst for advertising and public relations companies. For five years during the late 1990s, he was the media and social issues commentator for United Broadcasting Network. He was also the author of a syndicated newspaper column since 1992 and the creative vice president of Scripts Destitute of Phoenix.

Dr. Brasch was a member of the Local Emergency Planning Committee and was active in the Columbia County Emergency Management Agency. He was vice president of the Central Susquehanna chapter of the ACLU, vice president and co-founder of the Northeast Pennsylvania Homeless Alliance, a member of the board of the Keystone Beacon Community for healthcare coordination, and was active in numerous social causes. He was co-founder, with his wife, Rosemary Brasch, of The Oasis, a biweekly newsletter for families and friends of personnel stationed in the Persian Gulf. Later, during Operation Iraqi Freedom, they published The Oasis 2, for families of persons in combat zones. They were supported by the Bloomsburg Chapter, America Red Cross and Geisinger Medical Center, Danville.

He was the author of 20 books, most which fuse historical and contemporary social issues. Among his books were “Black English and the Mass Media” (1981); “Forerunners of Revolution: Muckrakers and the American Social Conscience” (1991); “With Just Cause: The Unionization of the American Journalist” (1991); “Sex and the Single Beer Can: Probing the Media and American Culture” (1997); “Brer Rabbit, Uncle Remus, and the ‘Cornfield Journalist’: The Tale of Joel Chandler Harris” (2000); “The Joy of Sax: America During the Bill Clinton Era” (2001); “Unacceptable: The Federal Response to Hurricane Katrina” (2005); “America’s Unpatriotic Acts: The Federal Government’s Violation of Constitutional and Civil Rights” (2006); “Sinking the Ship of State: The Presidency of George W. Bush” (2007); and “Before the First Snow” (2011). He was co-author of “The Press and the State” (1986), awarded Outstanding Academic Book distinction by Choice magazine, published by the American Library Association.

His last book was “Fracking America: Sacrificing Health and the Environment for Short-Term Economic Benefit” (2015), a critically-acclaimed novel that looks at what happens when government and energy companies form a symbiotic relationship, using “cheaper, cleaner” fuel and the lure of jobs in a depressed economy but at the expense of significant health and environmental impact.

During the past two decades, he won more than 150 regional and national media awards from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists, Society of Professional Journalists, National Federation of Press Women, USA Book News, Independent Book Publishing Professionals Group, Pennsylvania Press Club, Pennsylvania Women’s Press Association, Pennsylvania Associated Press Broadcasters Association, Penn-Writers, International Association of Business Communicators, Pacific Coast Press Club and Press Club of Southern California. He was recognized in 2012 by the Pennsylvania Press Club with the Communicator of Achievement award for lifetime achievement in journalism and public service.

He was an Eagle Scout; co-recipient of the Civil Liberties Award of the American Civil Liberties Union, 1996; and was honored by San Diego State University as a Points of Excellence winner in 1997. In 2000, he received the Herb Caen Memorial Award of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. For the Pennsylvania Humanities Council, he was twice named a commonwealth speaker. He also received the meritorious achievement medal of the U.S. Coast Guard.

At Bloomsburg University, he earned the Creative Arts Award, the Creative Teaching Award, and was named an Outstanding Student Advisor. He received the first annual Dean’s Salute to Excellence in 2002, a second award in 2007, and the Maroon and Gold Quill Award for nonfiction. He was the 2004 recipient of the Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian Service Award. For 22 years, he was editor-in-chief of the awarding-winning Spectrum Magazine, part of the journalism program of the Department of Mass Communications, Bloomsburg University, until his retirement in 2010. The community magazine was published twice a year by students for residents of Columbia and Montour counties in Northeastern Pennsylvania and one of the few to be inducted into the national Associated Collegiate Press Hall of Fame. The magazine was also a consistent award winner in competition sponsored by the Society of Professional Journalists, Columbia Scholastic Press Association and the American Scholastic Press Association. He primarily taught magazine editing and production, public affairs reporting, feature writing and newspaper editing. Every fall, he taught a 250-student section on mass communications and the popular arts.

Dr. Brasch was co-founder of the qualitative studies division of the Association for Education in Journalism, president of the Keystone State professional chapter and for three years deputy regional director of the Society of Professional Journalists, from which he received the Director’s Award and the National Freedom of Information Award. He was president of the Pennsylvania Press Club, vice president of the Pennsylvania Women’s Press Association and founding coordinator of Pennsylvania Journalism Educators. He was a featured columnist for Liberal Opinion Week, senior correspondent for the American Reporter, senior editor for OpEdNews, and an editorial board member of Journalism History and the Journal of Media Law and Ethics.

He was a member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists, Author’s Guild, National Writers Union (UAW/AFL-CIO), The Newspaper Guild (CWA/AFL-CIO) and the Society of Environmental Journalists. He was a life member of the service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega and was indicted into the national scholarship honor societies Phi Kappa Phi (general scholarship), Kappa Tau Alpha (journalism), Pi Gamma Mu (social sciences) and Kappa Tau Alpha (sociology.) He is listed in Who’s Who in America, Who’s Who in the East, Contemporary Authors, Who’s Who in the Media and Who’s Who in Education.

Dr. Brasch earned an A.B. in sociology from San Diego State College, an M.A. in journalism from Ball State University and a Ph.D. in mass communication/journalism, with a cognate area in both American government/public policy and language and culture studies, from The Ohio State University.

He is survived by his wife of 34 years, the former Rosemary Renn, the most wonderful thing that happened in his life and whom he loved very much; two sons, Jeffery Gerber, Phoenix, Ariz. and Matthew Gerber and his wife, Laurel (Neyhard), Bloomsburg; a sister, Corey Brasch, Sacramento, Calif.; a niece, Terri Pearson-Fuchs, California; numerous cousins; and his beloved dogs, Cabot and Remy.

Funeral services will be held at 2 p.m. Wednesday at Dean W. Kriner Inc. Funeral Home & Cremation Service, 325 Market St., Bloomsburg, with family friend, Nathaniel Mitchell officiating. Interment is in Elan Memorial Park, Lime Ridge.

Friends may call from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at the funeral home or from 1 to 2 p.m. Wednesday.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to the Walter M. Brasch Scholarship Fund, c/o First Keystone Community Bank, 2301 Columbia Blvd., Bloomsburg, PA 17815 or to Mostly Mutts, 284 Little Mountain Road, Sunbury, PA 17801.

Condolence messages and photographs may be posted at or sent to his family at 2460 Second St., Espy, PA 17815. Walter also had a Facebook page where many have been posting their memories of him after hearing of his death. Messages and condolences may also be added there.


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