Ethel Gintoft

Gintoft worked for the Catholic Herald for more than 35 years, as a reporter and associate editor before being appointed associate publisher/executive editor by Archbishop Rembert G. Weakland in 1981.

Considered by colleagues in the Catholic press as a trailblazer for women, Gintoft was the first woman to be elected president of the then 67-year-old Catholic Press Association of the United States and Canada in 1978. She was elected to a second term and in 1983, she was presented the association’s highest honor, the St. Francis de Sales award.

Gintoft (nee Gary) was born Dec. 30, 1925 in Milwaukee and was valedictorian of her Washington High School class, where she also was managing editor of the Washington Scroll. She graduated summa cum laude from the Marquette University College of Journalism where she later earned her master’s degree.

As Gintoft explained in a 2006 acceptance speech when she was awarded the Woman of Faith Award from the Sisters of the Divine Savior, she came to the Catholic press’s ministry through the Holy Spirit.

While an undergraduate journalism student at Marquette, Gintoft met and married her husband, Bruno. They had two sons, Bruce and Bob, but Bruno died at age 42. Gintoft, then 34, had been a homemaker for 16 years and was fearful of entering the professional world without experience.

But J.L. O’Sullivan, dean of the Marquette College of Journalism called two years later inviting her to apply for a graduate scholarship.

A fellow student, a Precious Blood priest, invited her to attend the Catholic Press Convention in New York and she left with a job offer after meeting Msgr. Franklyn Kennedy, executive editor of the Milwaukee Catholic Herald.

Gintoft worked under longtime Catholic Herald editor, Thomas J. Smith, and over the years covered civil rights stories, the peace movement and interviewed Dorothy Day, James Groppi, Billy Graham, Msgr. John Tracy Ellis and Dan and Philip Berrigan among many others.

“I love this ministry! I’ve met such interesting people! Most importantly, it serves the church,” Gintoft said in the acceptance speech, adding “How fortunate I am that the hands of those loving instruments of the Holy Spirit, led me to it.”

After assuming the role of associate publisher/executive editor of the newspaper, Gintoft oversaw the change in the publication from a broadsheet to a tabloid-size newspaper in 1991. She organized and chaired the Herald’s volunteer working board, composed of professional Catholics with expertise in journalism or newspapers.

Gintoft was also head of the Milwaukee Catholic Press Apostolate, the parent corporation which, in addition to the paper for the Milwaukee Archdiocese, publishes newspapers for the Madison and Superior dioceses and the annual Wisconsin Pastoral Handbook.

Among her many honors over the years, Gintoft received the By-Line award from Marquette University in 1983, the highest honor conferred to alumnus of its College of Journalism, and was inducted into the Milwaukee Press Club Hall of Fame in 2002. She served as president of the local chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and Officer of the Milwaukee Press Club.

Gintoft’s writing earned her numerous awards from the Catholic Press Association and the Milwaukee Press Club.

Other professional honors included the St. Bernardine Christian Communicator of the Year Award (1982), the Women in Communication Headliner Award (1982) and the YMCA award for outstanding service to the community in the field of communication (1979).

She was also awarded honorary doctorates from Mount Mary College and Cardinal Stritch University in 1991.

Gintoft served on several boards, including Rosalie Manor, Villa Clement, Inc., the School Sisters of St. Francis Foundation and was a member of the U.S. Bishops Communications Committee.

She was a part-time journalism instructor at Marquette University, served several years as president of Marquette’s Journalism Alumni Association and was a member of the advisory council to the dean of journalism at Marquette.

Gintoft retired in 2001, but even in retirement was involved with the newsletter at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, Milwaukee, her longtime parish, and she also was co-chair of the Friends for Weakland Fund-raising drive.

Archbishop Weakland issued a statement praising Gintoft’s journalistic contributions in November 2000 when she announced her retirement.

“For so many of us, the Catholic Herald has been synonymous with Ethel Gintoft. For many years her skills as a journalist and publisher were devoted to making the paper the fine example of Catholic journalism that it is,” he said.

“A fine mind, a fluent pen, a deep sense of justice, an eye for the significant events of church and society have marked her years with the Catholic Herald. We are all grateful to her and for her dedication,” he said.

Personally, Gintoft overcame several serious illnesses over the years including breast cancer, colon cancer, Graves disease, diabetes and arthritis.

In addition to her sons, Bruce (Christine) and Robert (Margaret), survivors include eight grandchildren, Bryce, Jeremy, Melissa, Mia, Ryan, Bryan, Andrew and Gregory and two great grandchildren, Benjamin and Lincoln.