By Chris Day
STILLWATER, Okla. —
Friends and co-workers used those words often when asked to describe L.F. “Chub” Bellatti, former publisher of the Stillwater NewsPress and Oklahoma broadcast radio pioneer.
“Chub was a great gentleman — a great civic leader in Stillwater for many years,” former Stillwater grocery store owner Dwight McCormick said.
Bellatti, 99, died Wednesday in his Stillwater home. Services will be at 10 a.m. Saturday at St. Andrews Episcopal Church, 616 W. Third Avenue. Interment will follow at Fairlawn Cemetery. The family will receive friends from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Friday at Strode Funeral Home.
Stillwater residents looked to the NewsPress and KSPI for news, sports and advertising, McCormick said.
“Chub treated everybody great,” he said.
Former NewsPress sports editor Ron Holt called Bellatti an old-time gentleman newspaper publisher.
“He knew everyone in town,” Holt said. “He was a wonderful person to work for.”
Bellatti cared about his community and employees, Holt said.
State Sen. Jim Halligan, R-Stillwater, said Bellatti put the community’s interests first.
“He was the classic newspaper man that had the great interest of the community at heart at all times. He was a very professional individual,” Halligan said.
The newspaper built a sense of community among Stillwater residents, Halligan said.
“He was indeed an exemplary individual for all of us to try to emulate in all of our lives with respect to his commitment to the common good,” he said.
After the Bellatti family sold the paper and radio station in 1997, Bellatti would ask former employees about their families.
“He was always concerned about you,” Holt said.
Bellatti’s father, C.R. Bellatti, purchased the Stillwater News in 1940. The paper consolidated with the Stillwater Daily Press and Stillwater Weekly Gazette in 1941.
L.F. “Chub” Bellatti worked for the Blackwell Tribune, where his father was publisher.
He also worked for The Norman Trancript before joining his father in Stillwater in 1941 to help consolidate the three papers.
He served in the Navy in World War II, returning to Stillwater in 1946. Bellatti joined his father and brothers, Marsden and Jim, at the NewsPress, and was instrumental in the creation of KSPI-AM and KSPI-FM in June 1947.
He became a member of the Oklahoma Press Association in 1940 and was elected as first president of the Oklahoma Broadcasters Association in 1948.
Bellatti served his community and state as well.
He helped restore the morale of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol and Crime Bureau in 1954 as commissioner of the Department of Public Safety.
Partisan political interference had demoralized the agency. Bellatti returned to journalism after the agency’s effectiveness had been revived. He also served on the Oklahoma State Civil Defense Board.
Bellatti also was influential in bringing a steady source of water to Stillwater. He was a member of the city committee studying Stillwater’s long-range water needs. The study culminated in the construction of the Kaw pipeline in 1981.
He was active in St. Andrews Episcopal Church at the local and state level. He was a member of the Hanner-Sharp American Legion post, the Admiral Nimitz Foundation in Support of the National Museum of the Pacific War, and a life member of the Oklahoma State University Alumni Association.
The Payne County Bar Association honored Bellatti with its Liberty Bell Award for his support of justice for all residents. Meridian Technology Center presented Bellatti with its Good Apple Award.
In 1990, he was inducted into the Stillwater Hall of Fame for his distinguished service to the community.
At the ceremony, Bellatti said, “It’s a very happy occasion for me and my family, and all I can say is I’m grateful to you. You’ve been so kind, I want to thank you with all of my heart.”