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Published March 23, 2012, 11:24 PM

Betty Witham, 91, West Fargo Pioneer co-founder, dies

WEST FARGO – A savvy businesswoman and key player in the success of the West Fargo Pioneer and its subsidiary publications has died.

By: Karen Huber, Forum Communications Co., INFORUM

WEST FARGO – A savvy businesswoman and key player in the success of the West Fargo Pioneer and its subsidiary publications has died.

Printing and publishing entrepreneur Betty Witham, partner and owner of the Pioneer, died Monday in Eventide Senior Living Community in Moorhead at the age of 91.

Witham fell Dec. 30 and suffered a broken hip. She had surgery and had since been living at Eventide.

Witham and her husband, Don (Donovan), founded the Pioneer on March 15, 1967.

She was 47 years old at the time. Both were starting a second chapter in their lives. Don Witham previously spent 20 years in a New York sale-based organization setting up pre-subscribed classical concert series in large and small cities throughout the U.S.

Betty Witham accompanied her husband on the circuit, assisting with social and public relations duties. After the birth of their daughter, Kathleen, she spent more time at home in Barnesville, Minn.

The pair continued to work as a team at the Pioneer. They started the business while still living in Windom, Minn., operating there for a short time, while their daughter completed her year of school.

In June 1967, they moved to West Fargo, operating out of a 300-square-foot office on Main Avenue.

Don Witham hit the streets to convince retailers their products would sell, while Betty Witham served as director of all in-house responsibilities, including the composing, mail and accounting duties.

They soon branched out into other print areas, with Betty Witham playing a vital role in the subsidiary endeavors – in particular, the establishment of a weekly shopper in 1970, the Midweek Eagle, with its twin, the Midweek Plus, following a few years later.

The shoppers grew and became twice-weekly publications with circulation covering Fargo, Moorhead, West Fargo, Dilworth and extending widely into Cass and Clay counties. The Midweek Eagle was at one time the largest circulated free paper in North Dakota.

In 1992, the Withams also acquired the old Binford’s Guide, known as the FM Greeter, continuing to publish it monthly. It is now FM Magazine. They also operated the Davon Press.

In December 2004, the pair decided to retire, selling to Forum Communications Co.

Joyce Newgard, who had worked with the pair for more than 30 years, said Betty Witham was highly influential in the growth of the business empire as well as its day-to-day operation.

“Betty’s words went far in some of the decisions that were made and there were some where she attributed great strength. She was just so vital in the success, there is no doubt about it,” Newgard said.

Betty Witham also believed in giving back by attending community events and supporting various groups and organizations.

She loved to travel with Don and other family members at every opportunity that presented itself, including several visits to London and Hawaii.

Her funeral is today at 11 a.m. in West Funeral Home Chapel in West Fargo, with a visitation one hour prior and a reception to follow.

Karen Huber writes for the West Fargo Pioneer.