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Phyllis Justice

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Phyllis Justice Obituary
Phyllis Justice

Long-time editor and publisher of the Grant County Review, Phyllis Justice, 97, of Milbank died Tuesday, November 5, 2013, at St. William's Care Center in Milbank. Phyllis and her husband, Clarence, worked as a team publishing the Review for 58 years. The paper was owned by Phyllis' family for 102 years with her father buying the business in 1911. Phyllis developed a passion for the newspaper at a young age, working there during her high school and college years.

Mass of Christian Burial will be Friday, November 8, 2013, at 10:30 a.m. at St. Lawrence Catholic Church in Milbank. Visitation will be Thursday, November 9th at St. Lawrence Catholic Church from 5 pm - 7 pm. A scripture and rosary service will be at 7 p.m. Burial will be in the St. Lawrence Catholic Cemetery.

Phyllis Catherine Dolan was born December 16, 1915, in Milbank to parents, Christine (Olson) and William Dolan. She attended St. Lawrence grade school and in 1933 graduated from Milbank High School.

She attended South Dakota State College, Brookings, from 1933 to 1935. Transferring to the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Phyllis graduated with a bachelor's degree with majors in journalism and creative writing in 1938.

During summer vacations from the U of M, she worked at the Review and it was at that time she began a weekly column, Ain't It Awful. She would continue to produce the witty column for the remainder of her career, sending the copy back home no matter where she was living.

Following graduation from college, Phyllis worked for a short time at the Minneapolis Tribune as a replacement for vacationing reporters in the society department. When that position ended, she returned to Milbank for a brief period and then began selling advertising for the Mankato (MN) Press.

The Tribune called her back for a regular position in the society division, but shortly after arriving for the job, the Tribune was sold to the Minneapolis Star-Journal. She was retained by the Star-Journal and was hired as a reporter, feature writer and editor in the women's department. She provided the front page feature for the Sunday section, chose the features she wished to write, edited the section and supervised its make-up in the printing department.

Her true desire was to work as a news reporter on the city side of the newspaper. After a few years of employment, she realized that in the male dominated industry that was not a possibility. She resigned in 1944, returning to Milbank to work at the Review.

A short time later she was offered a position as assistant director of a United Service Organization (USO) club in Renton, WA, through the National Catholic Community Service (NCCS). She received training for the job on the campus of Columbia University in New York City.

At the end of World War II, she again returned to Milbank to work at the family paper, but her time there was brief. She accepted a position in the public relations department of the NCCS in Washington, DC. Phyllis returned to Milbank on July 26, 1946, and for the next 67 years was involved in the production of the local newspaper.

Phyllis was united in marriage with Clarence Justice on October 22, 1955, at St. Lawrence Catholic Church in Milbank. Clarence had been employed as a printer at the Review since 1952. Following her father's death in 1957, Phyllis assumed the role of editor and the couple worked as a team to operate the Review. Both worked well into their retirement years and continued ownership of the newspaper until October of 2013. Under their guidance, the Review's circulation numbers grew until it became the largest weekly newspaper in the state.

Phyllis received numerous awards and honors throughout her career. She served as the first woman president of the South Dakota Newspaper Association (SDNA) in 1982 and also received that organization's Distinguished Service award in 2000. She was inducted into the South Dakota Newspaper Hall of Fame in 1988, an honor she shared with her father. She also received national recognition when she was presented the Emma C. McKinney Award by the National Newspaper Association in 1985.

Inducted into the South Dakota Press Women Hall of Fame, she also received many writing awards from that organization as well as the SDNA. She was also honored with the Golden Apple award from the South Dakota Education Association.

Phyllis and Clarence received the first Bishop Paul Dudley Media Award in 1997, an award she cherished above all. The award recognizes media which promote integrity and religious values.

She was also a community leader, serving as member of the lay advisory board of the St. Bernard Hospital. In addition she was a charter member and past president of the Milbank Business and Professional Women's Club. She was a county chairman for the Easter Seal Society for many years and was a member of the Milbank Area Chamber of Commerce and Grant County Historical Society. She served on the advisory council for South Dakota State University, was a past delegate to the South Dakota Democratic convention and a former Democrat precinct woman. She was also a member of the American Association of University Women and is listed in the Who's Who of American Women, Who's Who in the Upper Midwest and Who's Who in the Media and Communications.

A faithful member of St. Lawrence Catholic Church, she was a member of St. Joan of Arc Court and Catholic Daughters of America. Phyllis was a former member of the church council, St. Lawrence Catholic School Board of Education and the building committee which spearheaded the construction of the parish's current school. She also taught religion classes for 10 years and was a tireless supporter of the St. Lawrence Catholic School.

Phyllis is survived by her husband of 58 years, Clarence; cousins, Jane Whipple, Minnetonka, MN, and Helen Prater, Cleveland, GA; Mrs. Prater's children, Martha Prater, Ruth Lee and Stephen Lee; special friends, Laurinda Pribyl and Jan Boerger, and long-time employees, Holli Seehafer and Deb Hemmer.

She was preceded in death by her parents; uncle, Ole Olson; aunts, Victoria, Anna and Olga Olson and Clara Whipple; and Mrs. Prater's son, David Lee, Sr.

Memorials can be directed to the St. William's Care Center building fund. Mundwiler Funeral Home of Milbank was in charge of the arrangements. To leave condolences online, please visit

Published in The Argus Leader on Nov. 7, 2013
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