Old-time Valley Center newspaper founder Marge Quackenbush dies at age 101

Marge and Van Quackenbush in undated photo/Courtesy

Marge Quackenbush, died December 7 at Palomar Medical Center in Escondido, three days after she turned 101 years.

Along with husband Derek “Van” Quackenbush, who died in February 2015, Marge Quackenbush came to Valley Center and started The Valley Center Roadrunner in March 1974 with Van as publisher and editor and Marge in charge of the business and advertising.

Marge Quackenbush attended Grandview Church, Valley Center Community Church and later The Light of the Valley Church.

 In the Roadrunner’s first edition, Quackenbush wrote, “We think No. 10 is our last paper because we regard the “Highway to the Stars’ as the bit of acreage closest to Heaven as a body can get. And when Home is Heaven…well, what’s the point in looking any farther?”

The Quackenbushes retired in January, 1990, selling the Valley Roadrunner to a group of local businessmen. Van continued to enjoy his family and friends, and for many years playing the piano, golf and bridge, playing his saxophone in a combo and attending local community events.

Marge was born December 4, 1919, the daughter of Frank and Julia Gladys (Berry) Bott in Warsaw, Illinois. On Thanksgiving Day, November 23, 1950, she was united in marriage with Derek (Van) Quackenbush at the Warsaw Presbyterian Church. He preceded her in death on January 25, 2015.

She grew up in a small Illinois town on the banks of the Mississippi River. Her family owned a dry goods store, J. H. Bott and Company, which she continued operating into the early 1950s. She met her husband, Van, when she placed an ad in his newly purchased weekly newspaper, the Warsaw Bulletin.

In 1958 Marge, Van and their two young daughters moved to California. She partnered with her husband in the weekly newspaper publishing business. In Del Mar they owned the Surfcomber then later the Poway News Chieftain and the Rancho Bernardo News. Moving back to Illinois in 1968, they published the Hamilton Pilot, Hancock County Journal and Bowen Chronicle.

Marge and Van moved to Valley Center in 1974 and founded the Valley Roadrunner which they operated until retirement. In Valley Center Marge joined the Republican Women’s group, PEO and was a long time “Rotaryann.” She and Van attended Grandview Church then Valley Center Community Church and later Light of the Valley Lutheran Church.

Van earned a bachelor’s degree in Spanish at Dartmouth College. While there, he enjoyed playing tenor saxophone in The Green Collegian Dance Band.

After Van served in Italy with the 15th Air Force during WWII, he used the G.I. Bill to get a second degree – this time in journalism, from the University of Missouri. There, he was on the editorial staff for the Columbia-Missourian Daily. He also was on the board that selected the Mizzou “fight-song.”

In 1947, Van returned to his home state of Minnesota and worked as a reporter in Le Sueur. A year later he, and an uncle, purchased a newspaper plant that had been burned out in Henderson, Minn. Van salvaged a badly damaged press and set up shop in a nearby garage.

With this press, and a linotype borrowed from his uncle, he put together his first newspaper called the Henderson Independent.

In 1949, Van took a position as editor of a weekly newspaper, The Warsaw Bulletin, in Warsaw Ill. He purchased the paper in 1950. The paper won the State Editorial Association Award for general excellence. Meanwhile, one of his advertising accounts belonged to one Marjorie Bott, a dry goods store owner next door. They married on Thanksgiving Day, November 23, that same year.

Go west, young Van

Deciding to go west, Quackenbush sold The Bulletin and settled in Del Mar with his wife and two daughters where he founded the Del Mar Surfcomber. He sold it the next year and bought half interest in the Northridger of Los Angeles.

 Next, in 1961 he bought the Poway Chieftain. Shortly after, he combined it with another Poway paper that he had purchased and called it the Poway News-Chieftain. He later added the Rancho Bernardo News.

 While in Poway, Quackenbush earned the John-Swett Award for Media Excellence, awarded yearly by the California Teacher’s Association. He sold these papers in 1966 and joined the staff of the Reno (Nevada) Gazette. From there Quackenbush taught journalism briefly at Palomar College in San Marcos.

 Finding that teaching wasn’t for him Van and his family headed back to the Mississippi River town of Hamilton, Ill. in 1968. He started the Hamilton Pilot there. One of his many contributions to the local area was promoting the construction of the new bridge which replaced the 100-year-old one, which spanned the mile-wide Mississippi from Illinois to Iowa.

 In 1970, Quackenbush acquired the Hancock County Journal in Carthage, Ill. and the smaller Bowen Chronicle. After putting the papers to bed each week, Van enjoyed riding his bike home along the scenic River Road and sailing his 26-foot cabin cruiser with his family.

 Coming home to California

 Desiring to move back to the Golden State, Quackenbush sold the papers. He and Marge came to Valley Center and started The Valley Center Roadrunner in March 1974 with Van as publisher and editor and Marge in charge of the business and advertising.

 In the first edition Van wrote “…we feel terribly pleased to be a part of the “Palomar Country” – and almost like a pioneer in an area whose growth and development is mostly yet to come.”

 He considered it an opportunity to have “the chance to have a role in the development of Valley Center. To us, this doesn’t mean telling anybody what to do. It means providing a place of focus for the expressions of community leaders and the people.” He stood by the famous quote by Voltaire, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

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