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Newman added creative element to city

Harold Newman was larger than life.

Like so many creative entrepreneurs in the mid-20th century, Newman started a business that was needed at the time. As did many before him, he gave up much in his own life in order to make his business thrive. He started painting signs as the Newman Sign Company in his father-in-law’s garage.

The business thrived … it grew and grew. He was first an artist. Then, using his marketing skills to promulgate his ideas, he was contracting to sell and make signs throughout the state. His commercial arts venture made him a millionaire and helped his community become more productive and successful.

His sign business grew so well, it expanded beyond the city and county from whence it came. It thrives in 2014 and is still growing despite the death Feb. 20 of its 80-year-old founder. Methodology and creativity continue even as the sign-man’s memorial was celebrated Tuesday at the University of Jamestown’s Reiland Fine Arts Center. The venue was appropriate. He was an artist, and the center was filled with the arts he so loved.

Like other sign-men I have known, Newman was creative and understood the value and importance of advertising and marketing … using innovative visual images and typography. He was business, but friendly. He had a creative drive that was infectious. He adored his family. He attracted people and held onto their love and friendship for decades. None will soon forget him.

We had only to see the 3-D basketballs in a hoop, or the sign painter on a ladder attached to a billboard (outside in cold weather) to understand mind-boggling creativity and animated images he used in advertising. It was eye-catching and it worked.

Newman was able to journey from brush and stencil on canvas, board, glass and metal, to computer-generated designs on modern surfaces. He had vision.

His work with Jamestown’s tourism efforts is well-documented. Like that precious few who have, do, and will always promote this city, Newman offered ideas, funded those ideas if needed, and made progress happen.

Like the “old-timers” from the 1950s and before, he helped to shape the way this town developed. Something as common as driving in town was safer because of street signs from his shop. Everyone knew about the billboards and signs, but recently, the business moved into fence installation and urban construction. He kept up with — and changed as the needs of the time changed.

His family, friends, employees and his town were close to his heart. One of his grandsons took journalism and art classes with me in the 1990s and spoke highly of his hero grandpa. It was normal conversation to include his grandfather as one of the creative individuals who helped inspire members of the family. The Newman name will always be linked with the city of Jamestown. He and his vision for Jamestown will be missed.

If anyone has an item for this column, please send to Sharon Cox, PO Box 1559, Jamestown, ND 58402-1559.