Editorial: The legacy of Stu Paddock, 10 years after his passing
Ask around the newsroom for recollections of Stu Paddock, and invariably the responses center on his little acts of kindness.
Probably the most famous anecdote is the one Bob Frisk, our now-retired assistant managing editor of sports, so often shared. It was 1990. Bob was about to be inducted into the media wing of the Illinois Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame in Bloomington-Normal. His wife, dying of cancer, had been too ill to make the long drive with him, so Bob was feeling disheartened as he waited to receive the greatest honor of his career.
"I looked up, and Stu and Ann Paddock walked into the room," Bob said. "They somehow had found out I was by myself."
Everyone who worked for Stu has a story like that. Maybe not quite so poignant or dramatic, but some sort of story -- Stu calling from out of the blue to compliment a young reporter on a story; Stu showing up at an employee softball or basketball game to cheer on the team, sometimes the only fan sitting in the bleachers; Stu giving away tickets to a Bears game or the opera; Stu buying bottles of champagne for everyone in attendance at an unofficial holiday party to say thanks for the extra effort that year.
Or Stu just remembering an obscure employee's name and making him or her feel important.
It's been a decade since the death of Stuart R. Paddock Jr., who transformed us from a group of small-town weeklies into a suburban newspaper powerhouse.
When he died at age 86 on April 15, 2002, the world had just been changed by the terror attacks of 9/11 but had yet to be fully changed by the revolution of the Digital Age.
He represented the third generation of ownership by the Paddock family and an independent newspaper ownership that has grown increasingly rare at the same time that it has become increasingly important.
A decade later, the newspaper still is owned by the Paddock family and still operates independently, despite all of the economic forces that have aligned over those years against independent newspapering.
We remember him partly because he was a driven man, committed to making something of this newspaper, dedicated to excellence.
"This paper," he once said, "is my life."
At Stu's death, Daniel E. Baumann, his close adviser and now publisher emeritus, rightly observed that Stu "put this paper on the map. He created a standard for suburban newspapers, and that's his mark."
We remember him also because he was the spirit of this place. He still is, a decade later.
He was, in short, a man worthy of being remembered, and we feel an obligation to the remembering.
In 2012, 10 years later, Stu's life continues in the work we do every day.