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Wally Lage; news executive oversaw company’s growth

WALLY LAGE WALLY LAGE (Southeast Missourian)
Associated Press / August 21, 2010

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HARPSWELL, Maine — Wally Lage, an executive of Missouri-based Rust Communications and a longtime newspaper publisher, died after falling off a pier in Maine, authorities said. He was 66.

Mr. Lage, of Cape Girardeau, Mo., drowned Thursday, the Cumberland County sheriff’s office said. He was helping to unload a boat after an outing with friends when he became trapped under a float in Harpswell. A witness jumped into the water, but could not find Mr. Lage.

He was pronounced dead at Mid Coast Hospital in Brunswick.

Mr. Lage was vice president and chief operating officer of Rust Communications in Cape Girardeau.

The veteran newspaperman was inducted into the Missouri Press Association Hall of Fame in 2008.

“Our hearts are aching right now,’’ said Jon K. Rust, co-president of Rust Communications and publisher of the company’s flagship newspaper, the Southeast Missourian.

“Wally was not only a tremendous newspaperman, but a great friend and a rock for his family. May they feel the love of all who’ve known, admired, and respected a remarkable man.’’

Mr. Lage oversaw an era of rapid growth for Rust Communications, including the acquisition or start-up of about 50 newspapers in eight states, including 13 daily newspapers.

He served in the Army in the late 1960s and graduated with a master’s degree from the University of Missouri.

He began his career in 1969 with Winsor Newspapers in Canton, Ill.

By age 25, he was a publisher of the Boonville (Mo.) Daily News and of free publications in mid-Missouri, in Jefferson City and Columbia.

Mr. Lage later became president of newspaper operations in the Paxton Media Group, and was general manager of the Paducah (Ky.) Sun before joining Rust Communications in 1993.

During his hall of fame induction two years ago, Mr. Lage was praised as a fierce advocate for local news.

He served on numerous newspaper organizations.

He was also active in the Cape Girardeau community, including serving on the board of directors of the Saint Francis Medical Center.

He leaves his wife, Dori, four children, and seven grandchildren.