Harry Hurtt Deringer Jr., 70, publisher of Shore newspaper

August 25, 2005|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Harry Hurtt Deringer Jr., former editor and publisher of the Kent County News in Chestertown, died of a heart attack Sunday at his home near Kennedyville. He was 70.

Mr. Deringer, who was known as Hurtt, was born in Yorktown, Va., and raised in Chestertown, where he graduated from high school in 1954. He attended Sullivan Preparatory School in Washington, the Naval Academy and Washington College.

After two years in the Marine Corps in Europe and the Mediterranean, Mr. Deringer began his journalism career in 1961 as news editor at WCHA-AM radio in Chambersburg, Pa.

He worked briefly for LaMotte Chemical Co. in Chestertown before joining the Chester River Press in 1963 as news and sports editor. He later was editor of the Chestertown weekly.

In 1968, he left the newspaper to become director of news and sports information at Washington College. From 1970 to 1972, he was assistant to the vice president for development and public relations at the college, and was director of public relations from 1972 until 1974, when he was named editor of the Kent County News.

"He was a really good athlete -- baseball player -- and was devoted to Washington College," said Ed Athey, retired athletic director who knew him first as a student. "He was also a walking encyclopedia of baseball, Washington College and Kent County history. He was just a good man."

Mr. Deringer, who called himself "the old curmudgeon," brought his passion for Kent County and sports history to his newspaper job. He was named publisher in 1976, a position he held until retiring in 1994.

"Hurtt was a character and the quintessential small-town newspaper editor," said John D. Worthington IV, publisher of The Aegis in Bel Air and longtime friend. "He had a great sense of humor but could be as tough as nails. He wasn't afraid of taking on anything or anybody, and that's what made his paper so good."

"Hurtt loved telling stories, and I always thought of him as impish. He wore a porkpie hat and always had something funny to say," said Denise Riley, editor of the Star-Democrat in Easton, who had been a colleague on the Chester River Press.

"As an editor, he had very strong feelings about Kent County and editing a community newspaper. To him, it was a very serious responsibility. He was a proud Eastern Shoreman and Kent Countian," she said.

"He took on the big-box businesses, sprawl and other issues. He was willing to take risks, and sometimes they cost him professionally and personally," said Trish McGee, assistant editor of the Kent County News, who described him as an "avuncular presence" who at times could be "quite excitable."

"As an editor, he had to have an open door, but actually was a quiet, self-effacing, private individual. When he retired, he walked out the back door on a Friday afternoon without any fanfare," Ms. McGee said.

In 1985, he received the media award from the United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association for outstanding coverage of lacrosse, and was inducted into the Washington College Hall of Fame in 1991.

Since retiring, Mr. Deringer had lived on a 150-acre farm at Marsh Point, overlooking the Sassafras River, that has been in his family since 1757. He pursued his love of Maryland history and baseball, and enjoyed attending lacrosse games and sailing log canoes.

Mr. Deringer was a member of Shrewsbury Parish Episcopal Church in Kennedyville, where a memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday.

Surviving are his wife of 10 years, the former Judy Ashworth; two sons, J. Caulley Deringer of Alexandria, Va., and Harry H. "Derry" Deringer III of Rome; a daughter, Amanda H. Deringer of Arlington, Va.; a stepson, James Neill of Northampton, Mass.; three stepdaughters, Sarah Neill of Dorchester, Mass., Amy Bebergal of Cambridge, Mass., and Emily Neill of Brookline, Mass.; a sister, Mary Deringer Phelps of Kennedyville; and six grandchildren. His marriage to Hila C. Ferguson ended in divorce.

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