The former long-time owner and publisher of the Ridgewood Times and Times Newsweekly, Maureen Walthers, died on Aug. 30 after a brief illness. She was 86.
Walthers was a housewife living on Woodbine Street in Ridgewood in the 1970s when she penned a letter to the editor of the Ridgewood Times over the rampant use of drugs at a playground a block away.
The letter impressed the paper’s then-publisher, Carl Clemons, that he offered to bring Walthers on board as a writer. That began a five-decade association with the weekly newspaper covering the Greater Ridgewood area (Ridgewood, Glendale, Maspeth and Middle Village), and after becoming its owner, Walthers would oversee its expansion to other areas of Queens.
Beginning her writing career on a part-time basis, writing stories three days a week, Clemons approached her with a question about her future.
“After four or five months, he asked me, ‘What would you like to do with the paper?’” Walthers recalled in a 2018 interview with the Ridgewood Times. “I said, ‘I would like to own it.’ It took me 10 years of work, but I finally got it.”
As she worked her way toward ownership, Walthers was on the front lines covering the civic scene in Ridgewood and neighboring Bushwick, Brooklyn, during the 1970s. She would ride along with police officers and firefighters as they responded to emergencies in both communities.
Walthers and Clemons, along with Monsignor James Kelly of St. Brigid Church in Brooklyn, chronicled the rampant urban decay in Bushwick an award-winning seven-part series, “The Agony of Bushwick,” published in the Ridgewood Times in the summer and fall of 1977. The series brought further public awareness of the community’s woes, and action from the city to reverse the decline.
Walthers also became involved in various local causes during her tenure. She was one of the founding members of the Greater Ridgewood Historical Society and took an active role in helping to preserve and landmark the Onderdonk House, a colonial farmhouse on Flushing Avenue.
She was also an active member of Queens Community Board 5 for many years, and served for a time as the chair of its Public Safety Committee. Walthers was also involved with the Greater Ridgewood Restoration Corporation, which promotes the preservation of the neighborhood’s housing stock.
In 1981, Walthers became the Ridgewood Times’ first female editor, as well as executive vice president and co-owner. Two years later, she finally purchased the paper from Clemons, who remained on board as publisher emeritus until his death. After completing the sale, she brought her son, John T. Walthers, on board to help her run the operation.
Over the next three decades, the Ridgewood Times expanded its advertising and classified bases, as well as its boundaries beyond the Greater Ridgewood area. The Walthers launched in September 1989 the Times Newsweekly, a version of the Ridgewood Times distributed in northwestern and southwestern Queens communities, extending out as far north as Astoria and as far south Howard Beach.
Maureen promoted a strong relationship between the paper, the community and local police. The Times Newsweekly sponsored Cop of the Month awards at eight precincts covering western Queens and Bushwick.
At the office, Maureen was known for her bubbly personality, lighting up the room with her sharp wit, never afraid to speak her mind. She guided the editorial team with an enthusiastic, straightforward style, always emphasizing fact-based reporting while keeping a constant pulse on the beat of the communities the paper serves.
Maureen had hoped to pass the paper on to John, and for a brief period in the 2000s, he did become owner of the Ridgewood Times (Maureen remained on board as publisher). Following his sudden death in 2014, ownership reverted back to Maureen, but she felt that she could no longer take on those responsibilities.
She sold the paper in 2015 to Victoria and Joshua Schneps, of Schneps Media. The Ridgewood Times and Times Newsweekly continue on the tradition of local reporting for the Greater Ridgewood area, in association with QNS.com and the Queens Courier and TimesLedger newspapers.
Maureen spent her final years spending time with family and relaxing at her waterfront home in the Roxbury area of the Rockaways. She is survived by her daughter, Patricia Mack, her sister, Patricia Dolan, and her two beloved grandchildren, Ava and Isabel Mack.
A wake will be held on Thursday, Sept. 3, at Hess-Miller Funeral Home, 64-19 Metropolitan Ave., Middle Village. A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 9:45 a.m. Friday morning, Sept. 4, at Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal Church, 62-81 60th Place, Ridgewood, followed by a private interment.