When Richard Earl Thurlow bought the Pahrump Valley Times it had three employees — including him — and was based in a motel room, of all places.
By the time he sold it, the newspaper had at least dozens of staffers, two buildings and its own printing press.
Thurlow, 69, died surrounded by family on Feb. 1 in a suburb of Dallas, Texas, where he had been living his final years. He is survived by Roxanne, his wife of more than 40 years, as well as two grown children, Michael and Jane, and four grandchildren.
‘Just such an amazing dad’
Born in Cherokee, Oklahoma, on Jan. 19, 1954, he was a lifelong Sooners fan who spent time in the Army in Germany, where his lifelong love of beer took hold. Upon returning to the U.S., he began working as a journalist at newspapers in Wyoming and Nebraska.
“He was just such an amazing dad,” said his son, Michael Thurlow, 40, who said his dad had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2021.
As the owner and editor of the Pahrump Valley Times, Richard Thurlow was an influential figure in Nevada journalism and had served a yearlong term as president of the Nevada Press Association from 2002 until 2003.
The younger Thurlow, who called his dad his best friend, said he remembered tagging along as a kid while his dad worked as a journalist covering local games, taking pictures, and writing stories in Wheatland, Wyoming.
Then, in 1989, Thurlow seized the opportunity to buy his own newspaper, paying for it with the help of a loan from his father. With his wife Roxanne, daughter Jane and Michael, the family packed up and moved west to Pahrump.
‘A fun guy’
Henry Brean, a former Valley Times reporter, joined the newspaper in 1994. He remembered Thurlow as a generous manager, a consummate community news reporter and somebody who embodied the work-life balance. Thurlow had worked out a schedule where he worked hard Monday through Thursday and played golf on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
“He was a fun guy. He really loved to play golf. He loved beer. He smoked like a chimney. He was one of those guys who had a very recognizable laugh and he laughed a lot,” said Brean, who went on to become a Las Vegas Review-Journal reporter before moving to the Arizona Daily Star in Tucson, where he currently works as a news feature reporter.
‘Treated employees like family’
Brean said Thurlow covered Nye County commission meetings, which meant he would have to drive almost 170 miles north to Tonopah a few times a month.
“And he’d come back with 10 to 15 stories and the next day he’d go into his office and just write them all,” Brean said.
According to an obituary that first appeared in the Pahrump Valley Times, he “treated his employees like family and went out of his way to help them when they needed it. When inflation spiked in the early 1990s, Thurlow wrote personal notes and handed out money to everyone on staff.”
In 2002, Thurlow sold the newspaper to Stephens Media, which at the time owned the Review-Journal. After a short stint at retirement, Thurlow jumped back into the newspaper business and worked for the Kingman Daily Miner in Kingman, Arizona, ultimately becoming that paper’s top editor, until about 2016, his son said.
After retiring from that paper, Thurlow, whom his son described as a fiscal conservative but not necessarily a Republican, was disillusioned with Nevada politics and in 2020 said he wanted to move to Texas. So both father and son moved their families to Princeton, Texas, just outside Dallas, in January 2021.
‘As brave as he could be’
In Texas, the elder Thurlow started having lingering stomach pains. After several visits to doctors, an MRI revealed he had a mass on his pancreas. It was cancer. “Michael, I’m dying,” Thurlow said to his son with a shrug, Michael remembered.
“He just kind of took it in stride,” said Michael Thurlow, who said he and his wife Ana cared for his father for the past year and a half as his health declined. “He just kind of embraced it and was brave as he could be.”
In addition to his wife, children, and grandchildren, Thurlow is survived by his sister, Dena Lanning, and his brothers Phil and Johnny Todd.