OMAK — John E. Andrist, longtime owner and publisher of The Omak Chronicle, died of respiratory failure Tuesday morning at his home in Omak. He was 75.
Andrist was part-owner, then owner and publisher of the weekly paper from 1970 to 1996. He and his wife, Mary Koch, sold it three years after he suffered a stroke that left him largely paralyzed and unable to speak, but with normal brain function. After six years of intensive therapy, he was able to steer his own wheelchair, and led a parade across Grand Coulee Dam to publicize the importance of therapy following a stroke.
Koch said next to his family, newspapers were his greatest love. “He was a consummate newspaperman. One of the greatest tributes was, when he did have a stroke, the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association raised money to buy him a van,“ she said. He was an active member of the organization for more than 20 years.
Before coming to Omak, he worked for newspapers in Cheney and the Tri-Cities, and was news director for KHQ-TV in Spokane.
Koch said he advocated for the rights of American Indians and had many friends among the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation. “He had been honored one time by the Colville tribes for a strong editorial he had written on behalf of the tribe, and I think that was one of his most cherished awards,“ she said.
Koch said her husband had many interests, including music, photography, hiking, skiing, fishing and hunting. He enjoyed performing with the Okanogan Valley Chorus and Village Green Marching Society.
“In more recent years, he stood for strength in the face of adversity. I was told over and over again, and he was told, how he inspired people and enabled them to face their own problems,“ his wife said.
A memorial will be held at 4 p.m. Saturday at Omak First Presbyterian Church, followed by an open house at his home at 308 E. Bartlett St.