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By Miriam Raftery

September 22, 2021 (Julian) – Michael Jon Hart, long-time publisher of the Julian News and past president of the San Diego County Umpires Association, died September 14 after battling brain and lung cancer. His wife, Michelle Harvey, confirmed Hart’s passing on her Facebook page.

“Mike and I have so many friends,” Harvey posted. “I am glad that we spent our lives working to help others.”

The newspaper has been for sale for months; Hart’s death leaves the future of Julian’s newspaper in limbo.  A newspaper listing in July asked $300,000 for the publication, which was described as “highly profitable” despite pandemic lockdowns.

Hart and Harvey acquired the independent weekly newspaper on July 4, 2004; the paper has been the voice of Julian, CA since 1984. It’s been a labor of love for Hart, who covered major news stories ranging from the 2007 Witch Creek Fire that ravaged the region to controversies involved the county’s acquisition of Julian’s formerly all-volunteer fire department. Hart sometimes took heat for his coverage but took pride in covering all sides of community issues, according to Harvey.

Harvey told ECM in an interview in July that her husband did 80 to 90 percent of the work running the paper, adding, “We’ve absolutely loved it. We wish we could do it for the rest of our lives.”

The newspaper serves surrounding areas such as Ranchita and Ramona as well as Julian, but has suspending some operations in recent weeks due to Hart’s illness.

Born and raised in La Mesa, Hart graduated from Grossmont High School in 1970. he began coaching and serving as umpire with La Mesa National Little League, where he formerly played, and with Valley Mesa Bobby Sox Softball and International Girls Softball in East County, including working the IGS World Series. 

He spent a decade with a career in radio, including a stint in Sun Valley, Idaho, before returning to San Diego. He became president of the San Diego County Umpires Association, negotiating impropved pay for varsity and sub-varsity officials. Through the years he also officiated games from Litt

le League to colleges, including CIF finals and a world series championship. He also officiated with San Diego County Football Officials.

He moved to Julian in 2000, where in addition to starting the newspaper with his wife, he served as Umpire in Chief of Julian Youth Baseball from 2010 to 2015. In 2018, he was inducted into the San Diego County Sports Officials Hall of Fame.

Several events are planned in Hart’s memory.

A celebration of life will be held on November 6 at 3 p.m. at Julian’s Community Methodist Church at the corner of Highway 78 and Pine hills Road. Harvey suggests bringing a folding chair and be prepared to park on the highway.

A memorial service is also slated on Tuesday, November 9, Hart’s birthday, at 11 a.m. at the La Mesa National Little League field, where umpires are asked to dress in uniform.

In addition, a fundraiser to benefit Harvey is being planned at Wynola Pizza and Bistro by musician friends.

A GoFundMe account set up earlier to help with Hart’s medical bills is being continued to help Hart’s family during this difficult time, according to Robin Boland, organizer of the fundraising page.

On social media, community members reacted with sadness to news of Hart’s passing,  many also voicing concerns over the future of the town’s primary newspaper.

“Michael Jon hart was an avid supporter of arts and culture in Julian,” Jason Postelnek writes. “He came to all our shows. He will be sorely  missed.”

Adam Paul stated, “Sad to hear. Great person. I hope someone buys the paper.”

David Ybarra remembered Hart as “a good gent” who “always came to Folding Mr. Lincoln gigs at Wynola.”

Michael Judson-Carr, former publisher of the Julian News, wrote a poem titled “Outside the Box” which he posted with a note stating, “Michael Jon Hart, Michelle Harvey and I could always relate about the value of community newspapers, and being there the best we could…knowing that no one else would tell the local story.”


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