Areawide Media has lost one of its leaders and biggest supporters.
Wally Lage, vice president and chief operating officer of Rust Communications, Areawide Media's parent company, drowned on Thursday, Aug. 19, while vacationing in Maine.
Lage, 66, slipped off a wharf and into the water Thursday evening after returning from a boating outing.
Lage lived in Cape Girardeau, Mo., where the Southeast Missourian newspaper and Rust Communications headquarters are located.
Lage was very active in community affairs and Mayor Harry Rediger calls his death a "great loss for Cape Girardeau."
"He was a fearless leader everyone loved," said Areawide Media Publisher Janie Flynn.
While Lage only occasionally visited his north central Arkansas newspapers, Flynn said Lage was here daily "by e-mail."
Lage first became acquainted with Areawide Media when it was purchased by Kentucky based Paxton Media Group, where Lage was in charge of newspaper operations and general manager of the Paducah Sun.
Years later, Lage was involved in purchasing Areawide Media again through his position at Rust Communications.
During his tenure at Rust Communications, Lage oversaw the acquisition or startup of about 50-newspapers in eight states.
"He loved newspapers and what they can do for a community," said Flynn. "He would reprimand anyone who suggested that newspapers were a dying institution."
According to Flynn, Lage wanted his papers to focus on covering local events and educating the public about local issues. Lage was convinced newspapers could meet those needs better than any other form of media.
"He supported our launch of Avenues magazine and loved it," recalls Areawide Media Managing Editor Erma Harris, who is planning a September celebration of "Avenues" one year anniversary.
Lage had been contemplating retirement and, in recent months, had worked toward establishing a charitable organization to focus on programs to help children, especially special needs children, and to offer scholarships to young students.
Lage's family plans to see the charitable organization is established, as he wished.
Contributions in Lage's honor can be made to: The Wally Lage Memorial Fund, Southeastern Missouri University Foundation, One University Plaza, Cape Girardeau, MO 63701.