'He was the Prince'
Larry DuPraz, the beloved flat-topped, cigar-chomping curmudgeon whose critical eye refined six decades of journalism at The Daily Princetonian, died the morning of Christmas Eve at a rehabilitation center in Beverly, Mass. He was 87.
DuPraz, who had been suffering from heart disease, joined the 'Prince' in 1946 as a typesetter, forging the words of student reporters in molten lead with an aging linotype machine. He soon became compositor, assuming responsibility for getting the paper printed each night. A veteran of World War II, DuPraz also worked as a volunteer firefighter in Princeton.
DuPraz, an honorary member of the classes of 1971 and 2000, embodied the institutional memory of the 'Prince,' recalling in precise detail the scandals and foibles of past editors. (Alumni of the paper share their memories of Larry on our blog.)
He always insisted on perfection, constantly reminding the students of each managing board that they were the worst group of "dumb, snot-nosed, thick-skulled kids" he had ever seen.
When the 'Prince' switched from hot-lead type to photo offset printing in 1972, he stayed on as production supervisor. When he retired in 1987, DuPraz had overseen more than 6,200 issues of the paper.
He continued to serve as an unofficial adviser to the 'Prince' staff for almost two decades after retiring, until just weeks before he passed away. The paper was always on his mind, even as he was ailing. Though he was tough, DuPraz was proud of his "kids," especially the ones who went into journalism. A few years ago, DuPraz created a database of all the 'Prince' alumni from 1948 to 2003, collecting names, addresses, phone numbers, e-mail addresses and job information of generations of young Princetonians.'Professor' DuPraz
Though DuPraz often complained that each successive board of editors was worse than the last, former executive editor Lou Jacobson '92 said DuPraz worked to bring the staff closer together.
"He was a human encyclopedia for those who worked at University Place," DuPraz's eldest grandson Sean Greely said, referring to the location of the 'Prince' offices. "He knew every detail."
"We spent more time working with Larry then we did with any professor," said Richard Rein '69, a former 'Prince' chairman and founder of U.S. 1, a weekly business publication headquartered in Princeton, for which DuPraz served as an adviser. "He put his heart and soul into The Princetonian."
Though he loved the 'Prince' and his kids, DuPraz was never one to go easy on either. "Soon after I started," Brian Smith, the production supervisor who succeeded DuPraz, recalled, "he didn't like the chaos and confusion that he saw among the students in the production room. He liked everything to be streamlined and well-ordered. So he turned the lights off and jumped onto the table, slammed a ruler into his hand and said 'Get the hell out of here, every one of you.' "
"And they left," Smith added. "I was stunned — he was 67 years old! Then he took me aside and said, 'Wait a few minutes and we'll call all of them back.' "
"He would always tell us that we would never amount to much," said Peter Sandman '67, a former 'Prince' executive editor. "We always knew very quickly on that he never meant it."
Rein also praised DuPraz's "incredible adaptability" to new technologies. "He also led the way for desktop publishing," Rein said. "He was a more innovative guy than any of us thought."
"One of the things that really struck me with Larry is how he kept up with the technology over the years. He knew more about computers than most of us. It was very impressive," Jacobson said.Journalistic legacy
In recent years, DuPraz would enter the newsroom, walk up to the nearest editor and exclaim, "What is this crap?" before launching into a litany of specific grievances. Through the ups and downs of the past 60 years, this tough love came to be known as the Larry DuPraz School of Journalism, the closest thing to a professional school for generations of news-hungry young reporters.
Alumni of the DuPraz School of Journalism have gone onto every major media outlet, winning Pulitzer Prizes and penning bestselling and critically acclaimed books.
Washington Post Rocky Mountain bureau chief T.R. Reid '66, who is teaching a class in the journalism program this semester, said he and former People magazine editor Landon Jones '66 visited DuPraz in the hospital on Dec. 17, just a week before he died.
"For the first time in my life," Reid said, "Larry didn't growl at me." DuPraz was groggy from his medication and thinner than Reid remembered, "but he was still the same guy ... demanding."
Before Reid and Jones arrived at the hospital, DuPraz told his daughter, Claudia, that their board was "the worst he'd ever seen," a line he used with every board.
But DuPraz was "really, really proud of his troops," Reid said, and held an annual 'Prince' barbeque behind 48 University Place during Reunions. "He'd grab me, introduce me as being from The Washington Post and list my last three books."
Pulitzer Prize-winning author and former journalist Richard Kluger '56 said in an e-mail that DuPraz "was a formidable presence back in the era when staffers still set the headline type by hand (no kidding)."
But Reid said that DuPraz had a romantic side. When Kluger's girlfriend was celebrating her birthday, he asked DuPraz to substitute a headline on that day's paper with one about his girlfriend. "Wee blonde belle is 18 today," it said. "She is, by the way, still my girlfriend," Kluger said. Financial journalist David Zielenziger '74 was chairman of the 'Prince' during the transition from hot-lead type to photo offset printing. He spent many late nights with DuPraz as the paper adapted to its new printing process, sometimes finishing the paper after dawn. "While he could be impossible," Zielenziger said, "he was the 'Prince.' "
Born in Princeton on Dec. 17, 1919, DuPraz graduated from Princeton High School, took classes at the Hun School and Rutgers and lived in town for most of his life. His parents, who emigrated from France, founded the restaurant on Witherspoon Street now known as Lahiere's.
During World War II, DuPraz joined the 100th Bomb Group in England as a combat intelligence officer. Since his parents were French, he spoke the language fluently and worked as a translator for resistance groups, including the Belgian Underground.
DuPraz found a job with the 'Prince' once the paper returned from a wartime printing hiatus. He also volunteered as a firefighter with Mercer Engine Company Number 3, which elected him fire chief in 1973.
At his funeral on Dec. 29, family, friends, firefighters and alumni of the 'Prince' gathered to say goodbye.
Following the wake, a firetruck-led procession wound its way from the Kimble Funeral Home past the Mercer Engine Company No. 3 firehouse to St. Paul's Church on Nassau Street.
At St. Paul's, the Rev. Walter Nolan praised DuPraz for his devotion to God and his service to the country, the Township and generations of University students. About 25 firefighters paid their respects at the wake and funeral. A navy fireman's cap rested on top of the casket.
"He was so proud of his 55 years of service," Greely, DuPraz's grandson, said in a eulogy, praising DuPraz's volunteer work.
Greely recalled that he and DuPraz's three other grandchildren "also got to experience the Larry DuPraz schools of driving, poker and fence-building."
"He was a man who always stuck to his guns," Greely added. "Once he made a commitment to something, he stuck with it his whole life." DuPraz shunned the spotlight, family and friends said, and he was reluctant to share stories of heroism or awards.
Recalling a fire in Little Hall several decades ago, Rein noted that DuPraz was "at the forefront of fighting that fire," yet afterwards came to help put out the paper that night.
DuPraz was interred in the cemetery behind St. Paul's. After prayers by Nolan, two members of the U.S. Air Force performed military honors.
After the playing of Taps, the servicemen folded the American flag draped over DuPraz's casket and presented it to his daughter "on behalf of the President of the United States, the Department of the Air Force and a grateful nation."
When he retired from the 'Prince,' DuPraz told a writer that he was thrilled to be able to spend more time with his family. He said he might realize his goal of returning to France on vacation.
"But you know what my dream is," DuPraz said. "I want to see the 21st century."
Before he left Princeton in December 2006, DuPraz told his daughter Claudia that there were three places he wanted to visit, Smith, who succeeded DuPraz, recalled. " 'I want to stop at the fire company, drive by the 'Prince' office and stop by Jadwin Gymnasium.' Larry was a big basketball fan — a season-ticket holder until last year."
"And after having Claudia drive him by those three places, he said, 'OK, we can go now.' "Related — 'Prince' alumni share their memories of Larry DuPraz on our blog — Download an Adobe PDF copy of today's paper
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