I was saddened to hear of the passing of Frank Stumbo.
The long-time publisher of the Tribune-Courier was 92.
My life has been enriched forever because the paths of John Foster and Frank Stumbo crossed back in 1980.
Frank and his long-time wife and work partner, Betty, started the Ontario Tribune weekly newspaper in 1961.
Later they established the Lexington Tribune and merged it with the Ontario, OH publication, creating the Tribune-Courier in 1969.
Then, in 1981, I bumped to Frank as he was planning to start a new weekly paper, the Madison Tribune.
Frank was looking for someone to help him sell advertising and help get the paper established and I took a shot at that.
The first paper hit the streets in the Madison community surrounding Mansfield, Ohio on December 5th, 1980.
We had an office in the Boliantz Hardware shopperette behind the Buckeye Bakery store, across Indiana Avenue from Clara’s Pizza.
I did some news and sports reporting for the Madison community and did a lot of hand-shaking and baby-kissing for the MT in those early days.
The, early in 1981, I approached Frank with the idea I would like to write a weekly column and call it “Johnny-on-the Spot”.
I suggested I’d write about the trials and tribulations of a young couple trying to make ends meet while raising two daughters in north central Ohio.
Frank gave me a “thumbs up” on my idea and also allowed me free reign when it came to editorial content.
Did I say Frank Stumbo was a trusting and brave man?
He also hired my wife, Geneva, to watch over the office and even allowed us to set up a play area for daughter, Stacey so Neav could work and provide child care at the same time.
Stacey was so enamored by Frank that she named the goldfish she won at the Wooster Heights lawn fete “Goldie Frank”.
I never asked Frank but I’ll bet he was honored.
The weekly column-writing presented a challenge that I still cherish today.
The discipline of having to meet a deadline and produce something with some degree of “readability” is pretty neat.
It also afforded me the opportunity to delve deeper into my creative side and occasionally “vent” on topics that bugged me.
Frank Stumbo’s trust allowed my to write about the “Convict Cows” where I wondered aloud about the dairy herd at the Ohio State Reformatory on Mansfield, Ohio’s near north side.
I questioned whether or not these cows were law-breakers and, if not, why couldn’t they go home every day.
My dear friend Diana Coon reminded me about “Convict Cows” just the other day.
I also wrote song parodies and one of them apparently caught the eye of my Father-in-law.
I didn’t find out about this until just recently but he suggested to the Managing Editor of the Chevy Owners Magazine that they re-print my article “The Free Agency Blues” in their publication.
It was set to “Take me Out to the Ballgame” and I bemoaned how the grand, old game was being impacted by the Major League Baseball strike.
I don’t believe it was ever re-printed but I was honored to learn my Father-in-law actually read and liked some of the material I created.
I also worked with Frank’s son Marc.
We teamed up on a nifty front-page photo using a mannequin arm reaching from the depths of a cavernous pot hole somewhere in the community.
I think Marc and I drank from the same side of the stein.
It was Frank Stumbo’s leap of faith that afforded me this creative outlet that I just renewed recently with the posting of a weekly blog.
Calling it, “Johnny-on-the-Spot” was a no-brainer for me.
Frank’s newspapers are filled with the material other bigger newspapers never have space or time for.
Maybe not earth-shattering or breaking news material but those papers fill a niche in each of the communities they serve.
Frank was also the first mayor of the Village of Ontario and he helped form the community in 1958.
To me, Frank should be the poster child for entrepreneur and small business man. His picture should be alongside those words in the dictionary.
He didn’t seem to enjoy the limelight of high-profile politics but he wasn’t shy about sharing thoughts and opinions about what the elected office-holders should be doing.
Frank was more of a “behind-the-scenes” type of person.
He was never a “wine and cheese” sort of guy. He’d prefer a beer and a burger over that.
Frank also served in the U.S. Navy during World War II and also served during the Korean conflict.
He worked in the insurance industry before making the decision to jump into the newspaper business full-time in 1967.
It was a job he loved and he poured his heart and soul into those weekly papers.
To me, it’s sad to think that newspapermen and good guys like Frank Stumbo are vanishing like a March snowdrift in the warm, spring sun.
My life has taken me from north central Ohio but I will never forget the big door that Frank Stumbo held open for me and asked me in.
I will miss you Frank!