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Susan Scripps Wood, Pioneer News Group owner, dies at 80

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Susan Scripps Wood, an owner and former board chairwoman of Skagit Publishing parent company Pioneer News Group, died Dec. 14 in her home in Mount Vernon, Washington. She was 80.

A Seattle native, Wood was a great-granddaughter of the newspaper legend E.W. Scripps, who founded Cincinnati-based E.W. Scripps Co. and the Scripps Howard News Service, a portion of which later became the Scripps League of Newspapers.

Scripps League grew to a group of 55 newspapers, the largest newspaper chain at the time, before it was divided into several companies. One of them, founded by Susan’s father James G. Scripps, was what is now known as Pioneer News Group, which publishes more than a dozen daily and weekly papers in the Northwest. 

Susan Wood had recently celebrated a 60th wedding anniversary with her husband, Leighton P. Wood, whose own newspaper career took him first through Idaho, Oregon, Arizona and Lake Tahoe. The couple arrived in Mount Vernon in 1964 when Scripps League hired Leighton as publisher of the Skagit Valley Herald, continuing the family’s long newspaper legacy.

Even as the couple continued to build their business locally, Susan Wood raised their four children and became active in community service and philanthropy.

Former Mount Vernon Mayor Skye Richendrfer praised her philanthropic work and commitment to the arts, which included support of McIntyre Hall Performing Arts and Conference Centers and the Celtic Arts Foundation, both located in Mount Vernon.

“I think our community lost a real treasure,” he said Tuesday. “Susan was such a force, both inside the community and out.”

Her sincerity in dealing with people endeared her to everyone, said Pioneer News Group CEO Mike Gugliotto.

She served as board chairwoman for Pioneer for 20 years.

“When she stood up and said ‘I just want to thank you for what you’ve done for this company,’ it was sincerely heartfelt and you knew it,” Gugliotto said. “You just didn’t want to let her down. You wanted to exceed her expectations.”

Gugliotto noted that Susan Wood was passionate about her family’s newspaper legacy and believed in the importance of quality journalism and its role in the community.

Pioneer News Group is owned by the Woods, their four children and eight next-generation family members.

The Woods’ son, Stedem Wood, served in various newspaper roles, including publisher of the Skagit Valley Herald. Their oldest daughter, Marnie Roozen, is currently board chairwoman for Pioneer News Group.

“She gave all of us a deep love of the business,” Roozen said of her mother. “It was something we talked about at the dinner table at night. She was so proud of that history.”

Roozen recalled that her mother also didn’t hesitate to pitch in with the family business. Once, for instance, someone called the Wood household to report their paper had not been delivered.

“Mom pulled out the one copy of the paper we had and ironed it so Dad could take it out to deliver,” Roozen said.

A celebration of life was held Dec. 22 in Seattle. Donations in her memory may be sent to the Skagit Community Foundation/Wood Family Trust at skagitcf.org or 1204 Cleveland Ave., Mount Vernon, Wash. 98273.

(This is an edited version of the obituary written by Skagit Valley Herald Managing Editor Colette Weeks and published in Pioneer News Group publications.)