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Harold Newman, center, founder of Newman Signs, talks with visitors during an open house at the business in Jamestown in June 2006. Newman died Thursday at his home in Jamestown. (File / John M. Steiner / The Sun)

Newman remembered Thursday as an entrepreneur and community supporter

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Harold Newman, 80, founder of Newman Signs, who died at his home Thursday, is being remembered by friends and community members as a kind man who worked for a better future for his family and community.

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Dean Anderson of Jamestown said he worked for Newman for 30 years and considered Newman “one of my best friends.”

“It’s a really sad day,” Anderson said Thursday.

Anderson said Newman came from the Depression era and it showed in different ways.

“He liked to take something old and fix it rather than buying something new,” Anderson said. “He could buy new things but enjoyed the process of fixing things himself.”

Newman’s daughter, Kari Newman Ness, told the Sun in a 2006 story that Newman founded Newman Signs on June 6, 1956, in Jamestown, two days after he graduated from Moorhead State University, now known as Minnesota State University Moorhead, with a degree in industrial arts.

Newman told the Sun in a 2001 story that he learned how to paint by painting houses and barns growing up in Mayville, N.D. He applied this skill to signs and trucks inside his parent’ garage when it was raining outside.

Today Newman Signs has about 200 employees and continues to make, sell and distribute traffic signs, just like it has since its doors first opened in 1956. The company is best known for its billboards, which are located across the nation. The company also offers outdoor advertising signs (billboards), large-format printing, urban construction and fencing divisions, according to information provided by the company.

Anderson served as the general manager at Newman Signs, and like all of its employees, Newman encouraged him to be involved in the community.

“He (Newman) has been good to Jamestown,” Anderson said. “He loved being in politics, he loved being involved in the community. When you worked for him, you got involved.”

Newman was also instrumental in getting the World’s Largest Buffalo built. Dave Nething, a former Republican state senator from Jamestown, said Newman was involved in getting the large cement sculpture located in 1959 at what is now Frontier Village.

“Some people wanted it out by the (Jamestown) reservoir,” Nething said. “Newman wanted to place it where people could see it off the highway, kind of like a billboard.”

Newman was not just an “ideas” guy, according to Nething.

“He wouldn’t just talk about taking on a project, he would go ahead and work on it,” he said.

Nething said how Newman built his sign business is an example of his work ethic.

“He was a guy who pulled himself up by his boot straps,” Nething said. “When he came to Jamestown, he had no equipment. He bought a building, we called it a chicken coop. He made it a place for making signs.”

Nething said Newman was a great entrepreneur and an even better person.

 “He (Newman) was a pleasant guy, never said a bad word about anyone,” he said.

Richard Hall, former CEO of Jamestown Hospital, said he knew Newman ever since Newman moved to Jamestown in 1956.

“I got to know him when I joined the (Jamestown) fire department. I also ran a hardware store back then, and he bought some supplies for his sign business,” Hall said.

Newman served on the Jamestown City Council from 1960 to 1968 and Hall, who also served on the City Council during this time, said Newman helped get public support for building the Jamestown Civic Center.

“He was a true leader. He could see what was important to be doing in the community, and make it happen,” Hall said. “Harold was a very generous person, a visionary.”

According to a 1997 Sun story, Newman received the 1997 Outstanding Citizen Award from the Jamestown Area Chamber of Commerce.

Jamestown/Stutsman Development Corp. CEO Connie Ova said Newman was the key for getting the Spiritwood Energy Park Association from the “idea” stage to a reality.

“If not for Harold, we wouldn’t have the whole (Spiritwood Energy) park out there,” she said.

Ova said Newman was also a pleasant person to be around.

“Harold was just one of the nicest, brightest men I’ve ever known,” she said.

Ova said Newman was always thinking and coming up with an idea. Newman was a regular at the Perkins Family Restaurant and Bakery near the Buffalo Mall.

“You could go up there and see Harold at a table there with three or four newspapers spread out in front of him,” Ova said. “He was always up on what was happening in the community.”

Funeral arrangements for Newman are pending with Eddy Funeral Home.

Sun reporter Chris Olson can be reached at 701-952-8454 or by email at colson@jamestownsun.com

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Chris Olson
Hometown: Traverse City, MI College: Northwestern Michigan College and Michigan State University
(701) 952-8454
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