Saturday, April 08, 2017

Last of JSK crew gone?

Editorial page columnist Steve Hoffman left the BJ today, joining former managing editor Doug Oplinger and preceding photographer/line drawer/marathon bicylist Denny Gordon by a week.
Others taking Ol’ Blue Walls’ buyout offers are reporter Marilyn Miller, photographer Michael Chritton and copy editor Susan Gapinski Price, married to editor/nostalgia writer Mark J. Price.

According to my math from the online BJ newsroom list, that will leave 57, from Editor Bruce Winges to the message clerk. There was closer to 250 during my time at the BJ.

I’m wracking my brain trying to think of anyone left who was there when John S. Knight was running the show, after his yearly return from Miami by way of the Kentucky Derby in Louisville the first Saturday in April. Chaffeur Gene Cecchi drove the car to Akron. JSK flew to Louisville and Akron each year.

The best newspaper owner I ever worked for – and there were seven in my 43-year career – passed away June 16, 1981. So there would have to be someone at the BJ in his/her 36th year at Ol’ Blue Walls to have seen JSK walk into his corner office on 44 E. Exchange Street.

Current Editor Bruce Winges started in 1983, two years after Mr. Knight passed away.
By the way, John Knight and I had something in common: We both were born in West Virginia.
I was born in Monongah, 3 miles from Fairmont and 25 miles from Morgantown. JSK was born October 26, 1894 in Bluefield, on the southern border of my native state. He could see Virginia from his crib.

Doug had been there 45 years, so he shared the same air as JSK. So did I since I arrived in 1969 and retired in 1996, dyslexic numbers if you only count the last two numbers of each year.

Arguably the best columnist in BJ history, Bob Dyer, didn’t leave the Wooster Daily Record to join the Beacon till 1984, after JSK passed on.

Editorial page editor Michael Douglas joined the BJ about a year after Bruce.

Thanks to Advertising Makeup retiree Mike Williams who has the 1982 BJ employee roster:

John Knight was editor emeritus and Elizabeth Sammeth was his secretary. After JSK’s passing, she shared secretarial duties for vice president/editor Paul Poorman with Helen Coy.

I was on the board of the Cuyahoga Falls Amateur Baseball Association for a decade with Helen’s brother, Al Coy.

Jim Gels was vice president/general manager. Maxine Revay was his secretary.

Bill Schlemmer was assistant to the general manager.

In the Art Department were chief artist Bud Morris, Dennis Earlenbaugh, Dennis Haas, Art Krummel and Walt Neal.

In the Photo Department were chief photographer Bill Hunter, Paul Tople, Ott Gangl, Denny Gordon (soon to be the final JSK retiree), Ron Kuner, Marcia Nighswander, Don Roese, Lew Stamp, Bill Wade and Ted Walls.

In the Business News Department were business editor Jim Toms, Bob Henretty and the recently retired managing editor Doug Oplinger.

On the Copy Desk were Larry Froelich, Roger Mezger, Dick McLinden, Carol Camp, Art Cullison, George Davis (who may still be doing part-time stories; I’m not sure), Don Fermoyle, Donn Gaynor, Don Hawk, Tim Hayes, Barb Lumpkins, Mickey Porter and Gene Winski.

In the Sports Department were executive sports editor Stuart Warner, sports editor Tom Melody, Paul Bailey, Jim Derendal, Tim Farkas, Barry Forbis, Kevin Huhn, Ken Krause, Mike Naragon, Bob Nold, Sheldon Ocker, Larry Pantages, Jack Patterson, John Seaburn, Dick Shippy, Dan Thom, Ray Yanucci and Milan Zban.

In the Reference Library were chief librarian Cathy Tierney, assistant librarian Vick Victoria, Francis Crago, Marge Davis, Paul Gna, Diane Lynch, Tanya Parnell and Dick Vidergar.

In the Features Department were assistant managing editor Jim Nolan, Features Editor Ann Mezger, Sandy Levenson, secretary Rosemary Rountree, Beacon Mag editor Bill Bierman, secretary Lillian Petraitis, Action Line chief Craig Wilson, David Bianculli, Connie Bloom, Jewell Cardwell, Bob Downing, Mark Faris, Daphne Ginnings, Betsy Lammerding, Russ Musara, Char Nevada, Bill O’Connor, yours truly John Olesky as the TV Editor, Polly Paffilas, Joan Rice, Don Rosenberg, Ted Schneider, Jane Snow, Bill Snyder and Jabe Tarter.

In the Columbus bureau were chief Mike Cull, Suzanna Gussler and Bill Hershey.

The news editors were Al Fitzpatrick, secretary Janice Reschke, executive editor Dale Allen, secretary Cindy Irby, Dave Boerner, Bill Winter, Bob Jodon, Harry Liggett (founder of the BJ Alums blog) and Tom Moore.

The Editorial writers were Dave Cooper, Ron Clark, cartoonist Chuck Ayers, Helen Carringer, Ken Cole, IQ supreme Hal Fry and Sol Schwartz.

In National News were Colleen Murphy (later Tigelman), Ron Shinn and Debby Stock.

On the Metro Desk were top honchos Tim Smith and Abe Zaidan, Keith McKnight, John Dunphy, Kathy Fraze, Webb Shaw, clerk Sue Reynolds, Don Bandy, Bill Canterbury, Jim Carney, Karen Chuparkoff, Jim Dettling, Leon Dobbs, Pat Engelhart, Marilyn Geewa, Pete Geiger, Dick Henson, Steve Hoffman, Bob Hoiles, Ida James, John Kostrzewa, Chuck Lally, Marilyn Mastroianni, Chuck Montague, Barb Mudrak, Frances Murphey, Dick McBane, Dennis McEaneney, Ken Nichols, Pat Norman, Terry Oblander, Diane Paparone, Bob Paynter, Nancy Peacock, Pete Phipps, Mary Grace Poidomani, Roland Queen, Rick Reiff, Tom Ryan, Dave Scott and Brian Usher.
If my math is right, there were 159 in the newsroom in 1981 (more before I retired in 1996).
I went through the entire list of newsroom and Composing employees. I did not see the name of anyone still at the BJ. If I’m wrong, email me at with the name of someone still at the BJ who was there before June 1981.

After reading this article, former BJ columnist Steve Love wrote:

Hey John,
Thanks for the Last of JSK Crew list and the 1981 roster. I can't think of other JSK people remaining but did notice a couple of us  who joined the BJ in 1981 left off the roster—Ed Meyer, Browns writer, and myself, then the Metro columnist.
I arrived a couple of weeks after Jack Knight's death, coming from another Knight-Ridder newspaper, the Wichita Eagle [there was the afternoon Beacon in those days, too] and having worked for the Miami Herald in the days of JSK winter sojourns to that clime and newsroom.
Ed came from Florida, too, where he covered the Tampa Bay Bucs for the Clearwater newspaper.

So much change.
Hope you are both well and the same. Some things should not change. 

Mike Williams provided some insight into JSK’s chauffer, Gene Cecchi:
Hi John,

Every once in a while I think of Gene Cecchi, John Knight's long-time chauffeur, but usually at the time can't remember his last name.  So just now I went to Google search to find it.  Only one link on my first screen referred to Gene, an article written by Clark Hoyt in 2002 on Stanford University's JSK scholarship program page.  I thought it was worth sharing for its insights into the JSK legend.

Gene often came downstairs to John Grimm's office to hang out while JSK conducted business on the third floor.  He always had a Racing Form with him, and I suspect one of his undocumented duties was to identify romising horseflesh for his boss. 
I don't remember if Gene was a smoker, but John's office, to my dismay, was one of the last holdouts in the building against the No Smoking campaign.
-- mike




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