Doug Ernst, who had a 33-year career in Napa Valley journalism, died Tuesday morning after a short battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), his family announced.
Just 10 days earlier, Ernst and his family had hosted the “First Annual Living Memorial of Doug Ernst” at the Vintners Golf Course in Yountville attended by more than 100 people who celebrated his community contributions over the years.
Ernst, confined to a wheelchair and breathing with an oxygen tube, greeted everyone with a smile and good humor.
“So before we get started let me take a minute to apologize for my various typos and misspoken words, ill-advised editorial positions, late newspapers, wet papers and a host of other mistakes for which I may or may not have been responsible,” he said.
Ernst died at his home in Browns Valley shortly before 11 a.m. with family members present.
“It was the most peaceful I’ve ever seen anyone pass,” said his daughter, Shelly Mons. “With his last breath he was holding my mom.”
Ernst, 64, was a graduate of San Jose State University. He was a reporter for the Napa Valley Register from 1978 until 1988, then became city editor, editor and finally, in 2000, executive editor.
In 2004, Ernst was named editor/publisher of the St. Helena Star and publisher of The Weekly Calistogan, both sister publications of the Register. During a staff reorganization in 2011, he was laid off.
Since then, Ernst had operated his own public relations firm, Doug Ernst & Associates, and more recently had been the public information officer for Napa Valley College.
In October, Ernst received an award for his 21 years of service on the board of directors of NEWS where he worked to end violence against women and create a peaceful community. Ernst taught classes to help men control their anger.
Ernst leaves behind his wife of 41 years, Carolyn, with whom he had renewed their vows at the “First Annual Living Memorial of Doug Ernst.” Doug also has four daughters: Sarah Anenson, Becca Stoddard Ware, Shelly Mons and Katherine Beach.
Funeral arrangements are pending. The family is hoping to have a service on Friday, Dec. 21.
The family has created a GoFundMe account to help pay for medical bills and modifications that had to be made to their home in recent months.