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LeRoy Wylie Stauffer


November 24, 2018


LeRoy Wylie Stauffer, who over the course of his 55-year career, saw community journalism evolve from something people received on their front stoop every afternoon to a news cycle available 24/7, passed away in his home Nov. 22, 2018, at the age of 91. Many communities in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana and Missouri are stronger and better for his having lived. At a time when decency and kindness are so gravely endangered, humanity has suffered a great loss with his death.

Born August 5, 1927, in Beaver, PA, to Ralph and Hilda Stauffer, he graduated from Beaver High School where he played piano in the Big Little Band of Sweet Swing, ”a group of high school lads and a girl who played at local parties and school events.” He continued to play jazz and swing piano for his enjoyment and that of his family all his life. In 1945, he enlisted in the Marine Corps and was stationed in San Diego, CA, where his Company was among those training for the invasion of Japan when World War II ended.

After returning home from his military service, Mr. Stauffer was searching for a career path and a neighborhood friend suggested he go to radio school at KDKA in Pittsburgh. This led to his lifelong passion of buying, starting, owning and operating community newspapers and radio stations.

As an entrepreneur, Mr. Stauffer exemplified all that is good in business, building partnerships with investors, bankers and employees with integrity and a handshake. “I loved what I was doing and thankfully, I realized I was pretty good at it.”

He worked in the early days with his mentor and close friend, W.K. Ulrich at the Clearfield Progress and WCPA radio station in Clearfield, PA. It was at WCPA that he met the girl who would be his wife for 69 years. In those days, before television, it was a big deal to have a local radio station and everyone wanted to see it. WCPA became so busy with people coming in asking for tours that the employees couldn’t get their work done. So Patricia Rhoads, a high school senior, was hired to give tours of the station so the workers could do their jobs. The two wed Nov. 26, 1949, in Clearfield.

As part of his training, Mr. Stauffer moved frequently during the early years, taking over the management of Pennsylvania radio stations in Barnesboro, Cherry Tree and Latrobe. In 1955, Mr. Stauffer returned to Clearfield to begin a classified advertising division for The Progress. Within the year, opportunity took the Stauffers, who now had two children, to Danville, PA, where Mr. Stauffer would run the newly purchased Danville News and begin his lengthy and distinguished career as an owner.

Settling into a community for the first time, the Stauffers purchased a home on Market Street near F.Q.Hartman Field. Five years and two more children later, an opportunity arose in Niles, OH, so the family moved and Mr. Stauffer began leading the Niles Daily Times. While in Ohio, he purchased a group of weekly newspapers serving Cortland, Hubbard Poland, Austintown and Girard. He later started weekly newspapers for the communities of Liberty and Howland townships, and a radio station serving Trumbull County, WTCL. Additionally, he served on the board of the Niles Bank Company, as president of the Niles Rotary Club and as vice president of the Ohio Newspaper Association.

Throughout his years as an owner/operator of community news outlets, Mr. Stauffer worked to provide good jobs and working conditions for his employees and to improve the communities they served. He made life better for all those with whom he came into contact. This integrity is part of what led him to part ways with Ingersoll Publications, a national newspaper company he served as the chief operating officer from 1975 to 1982. “I was not cocky about it but I became confident in my ability to talk with people, meet them and gain their trust. If you want people to trust you, you have to do things right.”

In 1982, Mr. Stauffer left Ingersoll and returned to operating community newspapers in which he had an ownership position: the Niles (OH) Daily Times and The Danville (PA) News.

Over the next several years, he purchased the Noblesville (IN) Daily Ledger, Topics (IN) Suburban Newspapers, The Fulton (MO) Sun and the Potter (PA) Enterprise in Coudersport. He ran these newspapers with a son and daughter during the 1990s, as journalism in general and the Internet and Web in particular changed the landscape of the industry.

A tenet of his business philosophy was that you supported the communities in which you worked. Stauffer’s newspapers were a force for good in their communities, throwing their editorial and advertising weight behind numerous local projects. In Danville, these included the Danville Area Community Center and the founding of the Iron Heritage Festival. Mr. Stauffer also served as an early director of the Danville Area Community Foundation. He was a member of Christ Memorial Episcopal Church in Danville and St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Fort Pierce, FL, and previously of Christ Episcopal Church in Warren, OH.

In later years, he dabbled in retirement, turning to travel and boating. He and his wife visited lifelong friends in Sri Lanka, went to New Zealand and the Baltic regions, and took to navigating the Great Lakes in their 41-foot cabin cruiser. But he was always eager to return home and learn what was happening at the newspaper or in the worlds of his children and grandchildren.

Perhaps his biggest legacy, though, are the descriptive words from anyone who talked to him, whether in a single conversation or years-long friendship: He’s so kind, patient, gentle. What a nice man.

That is who Lee Stauffer was, even when the challenges and struggles of his own life were heavy on his heart.

He had a warm smile, soft tone and gentle manner. The guiding principles of his life were patience and kindness. He was always generous in ways big and small. He and Pat established a family fund at the Danville Area Community Foundation to provide ongoing support for the non-profits in whose work he believed. When natural disasters struck around the globe, his was an early donation to the relief funds and when the server at McDonald’s just looked like she could use help, he’d tuck a little extra in her hand and wish her a good day.

He is survived by his wife, Patricia R. Stauffer of Danville; a son, Michael Lee and his wife Dolly, of Danville; a daughter, Cynthia Louise of Hillsborough, NC; a daughter, Neela Marrikar and her husband Zarook, of Colombo, Sri Lanka; and a daughter Pamela Stauffer Christine and her husband Ed, of Orangeville; five grandchildren, Alexander LeRoy Christine of Virginia; Andrew Moyle of Florida and Jessica Moyle of Oregon; Lucas Stauffer-Weller and Alana Stauffer-Weller, both of North Carolina; a great-granddaughter, Kaiya Stauffer-Atkins of North Carolina, a niece, a nephew and many great-nieces and -nephews. In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by a son, Douglas F. Stauffer and a sister, Jane Ann Hales.   

Relatives, friends and associates are invited to attend a Celebration of LeRoy’s Life to be held Thursday, November 29, 2018 at 12:00 Noon at Christ Memorial Episcopal Church 120 E. Market Street Danville PA with Father Jim Strader-Sasser officiating.  Burial will be private and held at the convenience of the family. 

Flowers will be provided by the family. Memorial contributions in memory of Mr. Stauffer may be made to the Stauffer Family Fund c/o the Danville Area Community Foundation, 725 W. Front St., Berwick PA 18603, where they will continue to generously support the community he loved.

Arrangements are under the direction of Visneski Funeral Home Inc., 42 W. Mahoning St., Danville.

 


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