A Personal Tribute to Roger Coleman

Roger Coleman, longtime publisher of the Kane County Chronicle, died the other day. Roger was a friend to many here,and for over 20 years he was a driving force in the Tri-City communities.

Roger Coleman, longtime publisher of the Kane County Chronicle, died the other day. Roger was a friend to many here, but even more than that, for over 20 years he was a driving force in the Tri-Cities communities. For those of you who knew him, but even more for those of you didn’t, I offer this small tribute to one of those rare good guys.

I met Roger as most of us did, through some community event or another. He had an outsized personality and one of the best laughs I’ve ever heard. And he used both to get you roped into helping out one of his committees or charities.

(It’s been a long time now, but I can still remember wondering, as I sat on a “dunk tank” seat at some charity fundraiser, just what it was Roger had told me that convinced me this was a good idea.)

Roger was the last of the old-style community newspaper publishers; he lived here, his kids went to school here, and he was totally committed to making his community a better place. He was proud of the paper and his role there (his license plate was “CHRON 1”), but what he really liked was that his position meant he could make a difference. I have no idea how many local boards or committees he was on, but I do know he rarely, if ever, turned down a request for help.

That was especially true if the help he could lend involved the newspaper’s resources. Roger understood the role of the Chronicle was to be a part of the fabric of the community, and that included free papers for high school classes, scholarships and student awards, ad support for worthy causes, media partnerships with literally dozens of organizations, and, as many of you parents will remember, press room tours by the score for all sorts of kid groups.

Roger and I knew each other professionally, of course; I had written for the Chronicle for a few years, then went to the Daily Herald before eventually returning. However, our friendship was really kick-started by the mold crisis at St. Charles East High School. For me and Roger, this hit home; we both had kids at the school, and we both thought the way the School Board was handling the situation was abominable.

At that time there were four papers serving the immediate area: Chronicle, Daily Herald, Republican, and Sun. All dedicated staff to covering the story, but Roger, as a resident and parent, really took the lead. One of my memories is him sitting on my back deck, taping a Chicago Tonight segment on the crisis. He was eloquent and measured, but what really came through was his passion about the situation; our community’s high school had been damaged through carelessness, and our children had been treated poorly, and he took it personally.

In September of 2001, Roger was replaced as publisher of the Chronicle in what can only be described as a misguided and tacky move. After 20 years at the helm he was treated shabbily, and, though I like Tom Shaw and owe him a debt of gratitude, I wish he had not listened to whatever voices convinced him this was a good idea.

As he moved to other jobs, Roger would always keep in touch with me and some of the other veterans like Dave Heun. Over the years he was asked by the Shaw organization to return several times, but in the end he was truly happy in upstate New York, running a small chain of dailies and weeklies. When he discovered his medical condition he did what was so typical for him; rather than talk about himself, he called all of us “men of a certain age,” and urged us to schedule screenings and check-ups.

When we first move into an area that is new to us, what we see there we assume has always been there. It isn’t true of course; what we see is the result of the hard work, dedication, and love of community by so many who preceded us. In the Tri-Cities we are fortunate that so many who came before left so much to us. And that, for those who knew him and those who never will, is the legacy Roger Coleman leaves. We are a better place to live because of his love and commitment, and he will be missed. Roger died New Year’s Eve. He was 61.

So long, CHRON 1. You were truly one of the good guys.

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Dave Heun January 04, 2013 at 03:36 PM
Couldn't have said it better, Bill. And I worked with Roger for about 21 years. You are correct in the assessment of the unfortunate set of circumstances that led to Roger leaving, and the rest of the local managers being replaced. But it was a perfect storm of egos, political posturing, family squabbles and an unwarranted fear of the competition in the market that led to a series of events and a tsunami of ill-advised moves that Roger could not stop. We all landed on our feet quite well, so it wasn't really about us, per se. More accurately, Roger and the rest of us felt bad about how the Chronicle would be positioned in its communities at that time. It was going to be a rough ride, especially without Roger as the face of the paper. While my newspaper experiences with Roger are countless, I will also remember him as a sports fanatic and a really good softball player. He enjoyed our victories as softball teammates, it seemed, almost as much as our numerous accomplishments as newspapermen. He was a great friend who motivated all of us to do things at a higher level than we thought possible. It's hard to believe we've lost that laugh and great storytelling. But we'll never forget him.
Rick Coleman January 06, 2013 at 03:27 PM
Thanks for your kind words about my brother Roger. He will be missed greatly by his family.
Sue McDowell January 07, 2013 at 02:32 AM
Great job, Bill, Sue & Dave.....as I said on the Chronicle site.....the local newspapers have never been, and will never be the same since Roger left. One of my favorite memories, is in the mid 90's when I only knew Roger as the handsome, friendly and influential head of the Kane County Chronicle, some members of the Delnor Hospital auxiliary asked for the Chronicle's financial support of the Charity Ball. Not only did Roger enthusiastically support the event, that year, and every year, but he showed up with the Chronicle truck on set up day, and helped climb ladders and install decorations, and showed us all that he was a lot more than the "figurehead" that some knew him as! Luckily for me, I got to know him better over the years before he left the area, and he truly was a huge part of the development of our community, and will never be forgotten!
Nancy Higdon January 08, 2013 at 11:42 PM
I knew Roger as a great boss - as the head of the Chronicle when we were in the "old" building and moving into the new one out on Randall Road, he was always the consummate diplomat. As part of the sales staff of the newspaper, he got it when it came to the role of the salesperson in a journalist’s world and treated us as more than a necessary evil. He was always ready to listen whenever we had a problem or concern, His great laugh and sincere smile will be missed by all who knew him.
P.J. Harrigan January 09, 2013 at 05:30 PM
Fore !!!! Ahhh....a hole in one....would expect nothing less from Rog...play through my friend and save a spot for me at God's 19th hole :)


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