Onetime 'printer's devil' rose to lead Daily Herald computer operations
Michael Schoepke grew up with the Daily Herald, cutting his teeth on the old typesetting machines -- alongside his father and uncles -- and ultimately helping convert its production to a modern, computerized system.
Schoepke, who retired in 2014 as director of computer operations, died March 5 in New Mexico. He was 68.
"Mike was instrumental in choosing the software and hardware over the years to run the company," said Stuart R. Paddock III, senior vice president of information technologies.
"Under his leadership, he brought on new editorial systems, a new classified system, new production systems, digital online systems and a circulation system," Paddock added, "some of which are still in use today."
Schoepke grew up in Arlington Heights. He started working at the Daily Herald as a teenager, following in the footsteps of his father, William Schoepke, and his three uncles, Art, Butch and Richard.
They all worked in production, from the newspaper's days as a weekly to its conversion into a daily with the third-largest circulation in the state.
Michael Schoepke started as a young apprentice, or a "printer's devil," on the typesetting machine, collecting, melting and recycling the lead lines of type that were made up into pages of the newspaper into bars. Those bars then were melted down by the machine to be turned into new lines of type.
He worked his way into the mailroom, where co-workers knew him as something of a rebel, sporting a long ponytail and riding a motorcycle. However, it turns out he was a keen observer and learned every aspect of the business from the ground up.
"Mike was great at choosing the right vendors and negotiating competitive contracts for our company," Paddock said. "He always found the best in the business at a price we could afford. He was fair-minded and very loyal to the success of Paddock Publications."
Near the end of his career, he worked with his stepdaughter, Nicole Coniglio of Rolling Meadows, who spent 10 years in customer service for the Daily Herald.
"He was very proud of his work and his role with the paper," Coniglio said. "He was always reading technical journals to keep up, and when anything went wrong with the printing press operation, he would get calls, often in the middle of the night. He was the guy."
In retirement, Schoepke sought to spend more time with his oldest daughter, Elizabeth, who lived in Albuquerque, New Mexico. However, she died unexpectedly last September after a fall.
Besides his stepdaughter, Schoepke is survived by a stepson, Michael Coniglio of Chicago, one grandson and his sisters, Cathy Wloch of South Barrington and Linda Fine of Deerfield.
Services are pending.