Lawrence Fitzhugh “Chub” Bellatti, beloved husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather, died on Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012, in his home in Stillwater, Okla. Funeral services under the direction of Strode Funeral Home, will be held in St. Andrews Episcopal Church, Third and Knoblock, Stillwater, Saturday, October 6th at 10:00 a.m. with Rev. Michael Stephenson, Rev. Robert Fellows and Rev. Christopher Miller officiating. Interment will follow at Fairlawn Cemetery. The family will receive friends on Friday, Oct. 5, from 5:00-7:00 p.m. at Strode Funeral Home and at the church preceding the service. Chub was preceded in death by his wife of 68 years, Esther Lee “Tessie” Bellatti in 2008, an infant daughter, Melinda Bellatti, his parents Charles Robert and Edith Skidmore Bellatti, his brother Robert Marsden Bellatti, and his sister, Mary Bellatti Palmer, and is survived by his two sons Lawrence Lee Bellatti and his wife, Barbara, of Houston, Texas, and Dan Charles Bellatti of Stillwater; his three granddaughters, Julie Manning and her children, Scott, Michael and Katie of Keller, Texas; Jenny Miller and her husband, Chris, and their children, Elliott, Lacy, Garrett, Luke and Charlie of Bentonville, Arkansas; and Jill Flood and her husband, Braden, and their children, Reilly and Callaghan of Fayetteville, Ark.. He is also survived by his brother, James R. Bellatti, and his wife, Louise of Stillwater; nieces Susie Glasscock and her husband, Kirby, of Stillwater, Becky Bittle of Fort Worth, Texas, Janie Armstrong of Claresholm, Alberta, Canada, Barbara Caldwell of Mount Pleasant, Texas and Francis Lobpries of Dallas, Texas; and nephews Edd Bellatti of Bartlesville, Okla., Bob Bellatti of Afton, Okla., and Bob Palmer of Mount Pleasant, Texas.
Chub faithfully and selflessly served the community of Stillwater in many capacities over the past 72 years, and promoted the public good as a newspaper publisher and as a radio broadcaster. His wise counsel was sought by family and friends as well as politicians of both political parties because they trusted his judgment and his assurance that he would honor the confidential nature of their discussions.
Chub was born in 1913 in Blackwell, Okla. His parents had just relocated there from Norman, Okla., where Chub’s father, C.R, had graduated from the University of Oklahoma College of Law. Chub graduated from Blackwell High School and worked at the Blackwell Tribune, where his father was publisher. Following in his parents’ footsteps, Chub enrolled at OU in prelaw. He worked at the Norman Transcript and as an oilfield roughneck while completing two years of law school. In Norman, he met and fell in love with the girl-next-door, his future wife, Tessie, whom he married in 1940. At C.R.’s request, Tessie and Chub moved to Stillwater, Okla., to assist C.R. in consolidating and operating three newspapers he had recently purchased: The Stillwater Daily News, The Stillwater Press, and the Stillwater Weekly Gazette. After the United States entered World War II, Tessie returned to Norman to live with her parents, Floyd and Esther Swank, while Chub served in the Navy on the battleship USS Tennessee. The USS Tennessee participated in the battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa, and witnessed the surrender of the Japanese forces in Tokyo Bay. Chub was among the first U.S. servicemen who went ashore, unarmed, to demonstrate goodwill toward the civilian population by distributing candy to Japanese children.
Chub returned from the Navy in 1946 and joined his father and brothers, Marsden and Jim, in the newspaper business, and in a new venture, broadcasting. As Station Manager, Chub was responsible for the construction and the signing on of radio stations KSPI-AM and KSPI-FM in June 1947, both affiliated with the Mutual Broadcasting System. He had become a member of the Oklahoma Press Association in 1940, and was elected the first President of the Oklahoma Broadcasters Association in 1948. Chub remained active in both organizations until the sale of the newspaper, the Stillwater NewsPress, and the radio stations in 1997.
In 1954, Chub was asked to serve as the Commissioner of the Department of Public Safety, responsible for the operations of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol and the Crime Bureau, now know as the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation. Departmental personnel had become greatly demoralized because of partisan political interference in the Department’s operations. Under pressure brought to bear by the State Senate, the governor gave Chub a free hand to manage the Department. Chub quickly earned the respect of the officers of the highway patrol by accompanying them on patrols of the roads of Oklahoma and by seeing that the families of those injured or killed in the line of duty were cared for. Although asked by the new governor to continue to serve as the Commissioner of Public Safety, Chub believed that the Department’s integrity and effectiveness had been restored, and returned to the publishing and broadcasting businesses in Stillwater.
Chub also served as a member of the Oklahoma State Civil Defense Board, assuming his father’s position when he died in 1953. KSPI AM and FM played a strategic role in the statewide effort to respond to the threat posed by nuclear war and natural disasters. The stations were often the only source of information when power was lost since broadcasting continued through the use of the stations’ emergency generator.
Chub served the City of Stillwater as a member of a committee appointed to study the long range water needs of the City. The study culminated in the construction of a water pipeline which linked the City to the Kaw Reservoir on the Arkansas River, which has ensured a water supply for a growing population.
Chub was active in the life of St. Andrews Episcopal Church of which he and Tessie became members when they moved to Stillwater. He was the State Budget Officer of the Bishop’s Council, which oversees all of the church’s schools and missions in Okla.. Chub also was a member of the Vestry Committee of St. Andrews, the governing body of the local church.
Chub was a member of the American Legion Post 129, the Admiral Nimitz Foundation in Support of the National Museum of the Pacific War, and a Life Member of the OSU Alumni Association.
Chub’s commitment to Stillwater was recognized when he received the Liberty Bell Award for his unwavering support of justice for all citizens from the Payne County Bar Association, the Good Apple Award from the Meridian Technology Center, and when he was inducted into the Stillwater Hall of Fame in 1990, along with his father, who was inducted posthumously.
Chub was an avid fisherman and a member of the Izaak Walton League of America, one of America’s oldest and most respected conservation organizations. He fished in local ponds and lakes and at Table Rock and Bull Shoals Lakes in Ark. He and Tessie greatly enjoyed their many Stillwater friends – playing golf, attending Oklahoma State University sporting events, the supper clubs, the Stillwater Country Club and trips to the horse races in Hot Springs, Ark.
Chub and Tessie loved to travel and visited such places as Cornerbrook, Newfoundland via newsprint ship, Italy, Alaska, Hawaii and Switzerland. Their family fondly recalls all the holiday gatherings in Stillwater, the trips to Colo., the Oklahoma State Parks, the voyages on the Mississippi River steamboats and the traditional Labor Day weekends spent with the great-grandchildren at Big Cedar Lodge on Table Rock Lake, Mo.
Chub and Tessie’s home was always open to family and friends. Chub loved people, took an active interest in everyone he met, was the ultimate kind and courteous gentleman, is much loved and will be greatly missed by all who knew him. He will always be remembered as a humble servant and a really good man.
Pall bearers will be: Larry and Dan Bellatti, Walter Adams, Mark Grimsley, Chris Miller and Braden Flood. Honorary pall bearers will be his brother, Jim, and Chub’s 6 great grandsons.
The family is grateful for Chub’s wonderful care team, as well as for good friends, Diane and Walter Adams and Mary Ann and Mark Grimsley and the many kindnesses they have extended to Chub. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to St. Andrews Episcopal Church, 516 West Third Avenue, Stillwater, Oklahoma, 74074 or Judith Karman Hospice, P.O. Box 818, Stillwater, Oklahoma 74076. Condolences may be e-mailed to the family at firstname.lastname@example.org