Raymond Gross, retired publisher of the Courier Gazette of Rockland and former president of the Maine Press Association and the New England Press Association, died Dec. 7 after a period of declining health. He was 85.

Mr. Gross began his career in the news business in 1950 as a copy boy at the Lewiston Daily Sun. Later, he spent five years as news director and on-air announcer at WRKD Radio in Rockland. In 1958, he joined the Courier Gazette as a reporter. He advanced through the ranks to news editor and retired as publisher in 1991. For 20 years at the Courier, he wrote a popular weekly column under the name “The Black Cat,” which covered things happening around midcoast Maine.

Mr. Gross was remembered by family and colleagues this week as a respected journalist and editor who had a passion for giving readers local news that mattered.

“He was a real champion of the small newspaper,” said his son, Michael Gross, of Mashpee, Massachusetts. “He took great pride in putting out a top-quality newspaper … a paper in which the stories were absolutely accurate, absolutely honest and sincere.”

Throughout his career, Mr. Gross was active in several local, regional and national newspaper organizations. His obituary says he was a member of the International Society of Professional Newspaper Editors. In addition to serving as president of both the Maine Press Association and the New England Press Association, he was active on the board of directors of the National Newspaper Association, where he served as vice president and chaired several of its committees, including the annual Government Affairs Conference in Washington, D.C. He was inducted into both the Maine Press Association Hall of Fame and the New England Press Association Hall of Fame.

His son said Mr. Gross “took the responsibility for being the advocate for the community with local and government officials very seriously.”

Outside the newspaper, he was a loving husband to his wife, Esther Gross, and a dedicated father to their two children. She died about 25 years ago. He later wed Gertrude Black Gross, and they were married for 18 years.

Mr. Gross was active in several community organizations, including the Rockland Rotary Club and Tanglewood 4-H Associates. He also had a passion for music. He was a charter member and past president of the local Windjammer Chorus, and past district officer of what was then called the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barbershop Quartet Singing in America. He sang tenor in a number of quartets throughout his life.

“He was a superb singer,” his son said.

Mr. Gross had another passion – lobstering. He had held a commercial lobster license since the mid-1970s. He kept about 20 traps throughout the Wesaweskeag River near his house in South Thomaston. His son said he also had a love of mackerel fishing.

“He joked often that the first lobster of the season cost $700 to $900,” his son said, referring to his father’s start-up costs for the season. “By the end of the year he broke even. Into his early 80s, he was still pulling traps.”