CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. — Wally Lage, an executive with Missouri-based Rust Communications and a longtime newspaper publisher, died after falling off a pier in Harpswell, Maine, authorities said.
Lage, 66, of Cape Girardeau, Mo., drowned Thursday, the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Department said. He was helping to unload a boat after an outing with friends when he became trapped under a float. A witness jumped in the water but couldn’t find Lage.
He was pronounced dead at Mid Coast Hospital in Brunswick, Maine.
Lage was vice president and chief operating officer of Cape Girardeau-based Rust Communications. 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 re-spected a remarkable man.”
Lage oversaw an era of rapid growth for Rust Communications, including the acquisition or startup 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.
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, Lage was noted as a fierce advocate for local news. He served on numerous newspaper organizations.
He also was active in the Cape Girardeau community, including serving on the board of directors for the Saint Francis Medical Center.
He is survived by his wife, Dori, four children and seven grandchildren.