KENNEWICK -- A retired Herald editor credited with helping shape the newspaper during an almost four-decade career died at his Kennewick home Sunday.
William C. Bequette was 93.
Bequette joined the Herald as a reporter in 1948 when the paper was a year old. He retired Dec. 31, 1985, after working his way up the ranks, serving as city editor, editor and editorial writer.
"Bill was the little-known face behind the Herald. But in my 25-year working history with Bill, I knew him as the person who ruled the newsroom and molded it into what it is today," said Jack Briggs, a retired Herald publisher. "In the early '60s, he forced an end to local boosterism and instilled an ethic of honest reporting that continues today.
"He was gruff and tough, enforced tight writing and never recognized an eight-hour work day. He forced reporters to write stories they didn't want to write but eventually won them journalism prizes," Briggs continued. "He molded, not just the Tri-City Herald but the Tri-Cities with his forceful editorials that stressed not just economic stability and diversification but also quality of life.
"He will be sorely missed."
Bequette grew up during the Depression in Hardin, a small Eastern Montana town. He graduated from the University of Montana School of Journalism in Missoula and got his first reporting job with the United Press in Helena.
He volunteered for the Army during World War II and served in the infantry in the South Pacific. He earned a Bronze Star for bravery and the Purple Heart.
When the war ended, Bequette returned to the UP in Helena, then moved to the UP's bureau in Portland. He then took a job at the East Oregonian in Pendleton, where he is said to have written the first "flying saucer" story in 1947.
Bequette joined the Herald because "it was a new community and a new newspaper and had a lot of opportunities," he said in a 1986 article announcing his retirement.
"Bill should be credited with moving the Herald into an era of true professionalism. And he was the first to argue with Publisher Glenn C. Lee that women reporters and editors should be paid the same as men," said Herald Executive Editor Ken Robertson, who joined the Herald in 1976. "He ran a disciplined, tough news operation, drawing on his journalism school background and the discipline and toughness he learned in the Army serving in the jungles of New Guinea in World War II.
"He demanded much from all who worked for him and it showed in the Herald's pages."
Bequette's wife, Neva, who was Kennewick's first librarian, died in 1998. He is survived by his daughter, Gail.
* Paula Horton: 509-582-1556; email@example.com