Obituary for Roy Emmel Herburger, Jr.
Roy Herburger, the former president and publisher of the Elk Grove Citizen’s parent company Herburger Publications, passed away at his Elk Grove home on March 4. He was 87, or “43-and-a-half times two,” according to the math he liked to use on his birthdays.
“Ol’ Roy,” as called himself in his columns, spent nearly 60 years informing the Elk Grove and Galt communities through his company’s newspapers the Citizen and The Galt Herald.
“If you looked up, ‘The Spirit of Elk Grove’ in the dictionary, Roy’s photo would be there,” the Citizen’s former sports editor, John Hull said.
Roy, always neatly dressed in a suit and often carrying a large camera, was a fixture at Elk Grove community meetings, fundraisers, and festivities since he co-purchased the Citizen in 1959. He arrived to share a laugh, hear the latest town news, and offer space in his newspaper if someone asked him if he could help promote an upcoming event. Readers learned about local happenings in his page, “Around Town with ‘Ol Roy.”
He helped connect local residents to their community when Elk Grove evolved from a rural town to Sacramento County’s second largest city.
Roy was born into a newspaper family in 1931 - he learned about the news media business from his parents who ran the Stratton Press in Stratton, Colo. He went on to study journalism at the University of Missouri, where he graduated in 1953. College was where he was roommates with future movie star George C. Scott, and it was where he met his first wife, Mary Hull.
After graduation, Roy served in the U.S. Air Force and was honorably discharged as first lieutenant. He and Mary then worked as journalists in California where they purchased the Citizen and The Galt Herald.
Roy’s dedication to community service and philanthropy earned him the honors of Citizen of the Year in Elk Grove and Galt in 1980 and the Elk Grove Key to the City last year. He was also a grand marshal in the Elk Grove Western Festival parade. Roy often told the story about when he was able to find a horse for Ronald Reagan to ride in that festival’s parade in 1966 when he ran for California governor.
Close to Roy’s heart was the Elk Grove Unified School District. Soon after he took over the Citizen, he promoted the 1959 campaign to merge several small school districts into one unified district that stretches from Florin to Wilton. The measure won by just a few votes.
Elk Grove Unified later evolved into one of California’s largest districts that now serves more than 62,000 students. Roy attended Elk Grove school board meetings whenever he could for over five decades. The district named an elementary school in his honor in 2004.
Roy was also involved in the successful campaigns to move Elk Grove High School to its current location, build Cosumnes River College, and gain cityhood for Elk Grove. He also co-founded the Elk Grove Regional Scholarship Foundation, which now provides nearly 200 scholarships to local high school students.
Aside from the large projects and campaigns, Roy encouraged local elementary school students to become journalists. In 1991, he invited James McKee Elementary School students to create, Bear Business or an entire page of news stories and photos that he ran in the Citizen. Several other schools also followed McKee’s lead.
Roy stayed active in the Citizen and in his company, Herburger Publications deep into his eighties. He slowed down in recent years and stepped away from daily operations to focus on his health. Roy ended his battle with Parkinson’s disease on March 4.
Roy is survived by his wife Aurora, his children David (Debra), Elizabeth (Peter Swartz), Leah, and Vanessa (James Babb); and his seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren