David Cutler, Newspaper Magnate, Dies

David Sumner Cutler, 66, a community newspaper giant, died Feb. 28 of bilary cancer in a journey chronicled on a web site tended by his son Josh. If you care to read that story, go to http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/davidcutler/mystory.

His death was like his life – cutting edge, risky and complicated.

David was my friend and mentor. We met at the Patriot Ledger when he was just back from being a Marine in Vietnam. It was not until many years later that I discovered he was a hero. The paper for his Purple Heart said that while under enemy fire, he risked his life to save one of his men who had fallen in an exposed position. David was wounded as he tried to save a young man. His scars from Vietnam were usually covered by clothing and bravado.

He was always brave. He held himself to extraordinarily high standards. He came from a family accustomed to accomplishment.

His parents, the late John and Bobbi Cutler, started the Duxbury Clipper 60 years ago. He grew up understanding the difficulties of a weekly newspaper.

David was a graduate of Holderness School in New Hampshire and Colby College. His grandmother, the late Cid Ricketts Sumner, was the author of several books. She wrote “Quality” a story made into a movie called “Pinky” about the topic of interracial marriage when there were still states that outlawed those marriages. She wrote the “Tammy Out of Time” which became the movie “Tammy and the Bachelor” starring Debbie Reynolds. His maternal grandfather, the late John Sumner, won the Nobel Prize in chemistry. His father’s family were Greek immigrants, making the fact that his father graduated from Harvard and authored a number of books of his own, all the more impressive.

In the spring of 1972, when David was not yet 30, he, his wife, and a partner, Mike Stearns – who had a small amount of cash – started the Marshfield Mariner.

Most of his friends in the business thought his parents backed that venture. We weren’t surprised he didn’t sink. The truth was what saved him was hard work, commitment, and a community that wanted its own local paper. He and his partner were just about out of money when the election season began and the Marshfield politicians began showing up looking for advertising space.

That wasn’t his only close call financially. David grew his business from one paper to 17 when he sold the operation to Cap Cities ABC in the 1980s. He stayed on at the green building in Marshfield’s industrial park for a few more years.

When he left, he partnered with John Coots, who had been his boss in the corporate structure. The pair bought the Southbridge Press which included the Southbridge Evening News and several smaller papers and David was on his way to creating his second newspaper empire. They also owned Salmon Press, a venture that publishes several newspapers in New Hampshire. He once told me he was amazed at the low sale price of some weeklies. At the time of his death, his holdings included 23 newspapers in three states.

David took over the ownership of the Duxbury Clipper after his father’s death in 1998. For more than 10 years, his son, Josh has run the Clipper. Under Josh’s leadership, the Clipper opened several sister papers, called the Express in Hanson, Whitman, East Bridgewater and Pembroke. Josh is no longer serving as the publisher of the Clipper since he decided to run for state representative in the district.

David is survived by his wife, the Rev. Catherine Cullen, of Duxbury; two sisters, Margaret Chandler of Maryland and Gail Cutler of Pembroke; three sons, Josh S. Cutler of Duxbury, Benjamin D. Cutler of New York and Jonathan M. Cullen of West Roxbury; three, daughters Carolyn M. Cutler of Georgia, Rebecca W. Cutler of Duxbury and Amanda C. Benard of Hingham, and seven grandchildren.

He leaves a large extended family, including ex-wives, former step children and many friends.

A graveside service at Mayflower Cemetery was held March 4 at 10 a.m. A memorial service will be held Saturday, March 13 at 5 p.m. at First Parish Church, Duxbury.

Donations may be made to the Cutler Family Scholarship in care of the Trustees of Partridge Academy, P.O. Box 2552, Duxbury, MA 02331.