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    William J. Pape, ex-publisher of the Republican-American, dies at 87

    WATERBURY, Conn. — William J. Pape II, the longtime editor and former publisher of Waterbury’s Republican-American newspaper died Saturday. He was 87.

    The death was announced by the newspaper’s managing editor Anne Karolyi.

    Mr. Pape began working at the newspaper in 1959 after he graduated from Harvard Business School and eventually became publisher, like his father and grandfather, the Republican-American reported. His grandfather, William J. Pape, bought The Republican in 1901.  

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    The Navy veteran was a champion for press freedom, a philanthropist, and a devout Catholic. He was also an avid Republican but stressed the importance of the editorial pages and news staff operating independently.

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    He was honored with many awards, including the Yankee Quill Award in 1999 for his contributions to journalism in New England.

    Mr. Pape was known for having high expectations for his staff and delivering sometimes blunt responses to readers.

    ‘‘I am sorry to hear you are unhappy with our newspaper,’’ Mr. Pape once wrote to a reader who complained that there was too much negative news. ‘‘If the country is going to hell in a hand basket, I feel it is important that our readers know it.’’

    Chris Powell, a director of the Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information, called Mr. Pape ‘‘principled and fearless.’’ Powell said Mr. Pape was ‘‘unafraid to protest the long misdirection of Connecticut’s public policy no matter how many people would consider him politically incorrect.’’

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    ‘‘His legacy is not just the vigorous, civic-minded news organization he led, but the example he set for independent journalism,’’ said Powell, a columnist and retired managing editor of the Journal Inquirer in Manchester.