Lee S. Catterall, a one-time editor of the Powell High School student newspaper, who leveraged that experience into a long career in journalism, died on Tuesday, April 13, in Jacksonville, Florida, from complications of dementia. He was 78.
Lee was one of the fortunate individuals who, at the age of 16, knew what he wanted to do in life, then moved forward and did it. His passion for journalism took him from Wyoming to England, Korea, Washington, D.C. and finally Hawaii. Studying journalism at the University of Wyoming, he was editor of The Branding Iron.
One summer during college Lee worked at The Telegraph Argus in Bradford, England. While there, in addition to his regular assignments, Lee wrote a series of articles for The Billings Gazette, titled Wyoming Yankee Abroad, chronicling his experiences, including golf at St. Andrews, pub life, and visiting The Tavern in Liverpool, the subterranean nightclub where The Beatles got their start.
After college he worked as press assistant to Mayne Miller, a candidate for Wyoming’s lone congressional seat, in 1966, then worked at The Riverton Ranger before being drafted into the Army. Someone in the Army was astute enough to see that Lee had more talent at a typewriter than holding a gun; he became a writer for the U.S. military’s Stars and Stripes, stationed at the demilitarized zone in Korea.
After the Army, Lee gravitated to Washington, D.C., writing for The Montgomery County Herald (Bob Woodward was a colleague), later writing weekly columns on topics of importance to the Rocky Mountain region that were published by small Wyoming and Montana newspapers, including The Powell Tribune. In 1980, while visiting a friend in Honolulu, Lee interviewed, and was hired, for a position at The Honolulu Star Bulletin, where he remained until his retirement.
In 1985, Lee began reporting for The Star Bulletin about complaints by art experts and consumers of sales at Center Art Gallery in Honolulu, of reproduced work being represented as original art, including that of the late Salvador Dali. After consulting with his brother John, a college art professor, about the printmaking process, and what constitutes an original artwork, Lee wrote a series of investigative reports that triggered a criminal investigation. Five years later, a federal judge convicted Center Art Gallery executives William D. Mett and Marvin L. Wiseman on charges of mail fraud. The two were also found guilty on separate charges of embezzlement, related to the company’s pension fund, and were sentenced to five years and three months in prison.
Lee, fascinated by the world of art fraud, wrote The Great Dali Art Fraud & Other Deceptions, published by Barricade Books in 1992. In a review, The Washington Post wrote “Lee Catterall’s eye-opening account of fake Salvador Dali, Marc Chagall, Joan Miro and Pablo Picasso ‘limited editions’ that flooded the lower rungs of the international art market from the late 1970s to 1992 contains enough characters — many of them slimy — to qualify as a Russian novel. Catterall tracks this meandering trail of phony prints with a bloodhound’s zeal.”
Born in Casper on May 24, 1944, Lee’s first 12 years were spent in the oil patch, first the oil camp at Midwest, then Elk Basin. His father Willard worked for Pan American Petroleum. His mother Elinor was a homemaker, and later an elementary teacher in Powell schools. The Elk Basin house, along with the family, was moved into Powell in the mid-1950s when the oil camps were closed. Lee was an avid tennis player and golfer, picking up both sports from his father. In high school he played in many golf tournaments at Powell Golf Club, winning or placing in several. During his Hawaii years, Saturdays would find Lee playing a round of golf with buddies at Makaha Valley Country Club.
Lee is survived by his wife Marilyn Tong, brother John (Diane) in Tampa, brother Stephen (Sue) in Roxborough Park, Colorado, and numerous nieces and nephews.
No funeral services are planned at this time.