It’s that time of year again – Staunton News Leader is compiling its annual list of the best obituaries from around the county. As we all prepare to say goodbye to those we have lost this year, here are 10 of our favorite stories from the year gone by.
Judy Adams, a lifelong Staunton resident and print journalist, passed away on September 13 after a long illness. Adams served as the executive editor of the Staunton News Leader from 1994 until her retirement in 2009. During that time, she also served as a media critic for the Augusta Free Press and as an adjunct professor at Randolph-Macon College.
Adams was known for her journalistic integrity and ability to bring people and issues together in thoughtful and compelling ways. She was a champion for public education, labor rights, women’s rights, and environmentalism, and her peers highly respected her.
In tribute to Adams, the Staunton News Leader published articles reflecting on her life and work.
John Henson was the best Staunton news leader Obituaries of. He was a journalist for over three decades and significantly impacted the community.
Henson started his career as a reporter for The News Leader in 1983. He held various positions at the paper, including managing editor, news director, and editor-in-chief. In 2002, He became the paper’s editorial page editor. He retired from his position as editorial page editor in 2006 but continued to contribute to The News Leader’s content online. Henson was also a member of the Virginia Press Association and served on its board of directors. He advocated for journalism and helped establish the Hampton Inn in Staunton and numerous education programs at area high schools. John Henson will be missed by everyone who knew him, and he will never be forgotten.
Dickie Anderson, a longtime Staunton news leader, has passed away at the age of 87. Anderson was the managing editor and editorial director of the News-Leader from 1974 until his retirement in 2001. He also served as the paper’s publisher from 1978 to 1981.
Anderson was born in Staunton in 1930 and graduated from James Madison High School in 1948. He earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Ohio State University in 1952 and a master’s degree from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in 1954.
After college, Anderson became an assistant city editor for the News-Leader. In 1964 he was named managing editor and editorial director, succeeding his father-in-law, C.B. Sheppard Jr., who had been with the paper since 1936.
Under Anderson’s direction, the News-Leader became one of Virginia’s leading newspapers. He championed investigative reporting and won several awards for excellence in that field, including two George Polk Awards (1971 and 1977). In 1994 he was awarded an honorary doctor of humane letters degree by Virginia Tech.
Anderson retired from the News Leader in 2001 after 45 years of service to his community and profession. In addition to his work at the newspaper, Anderson served on several civic organizations, including The Rotary Club of Charlottesville, The Chamber of Commerce of Lynchburg, The Bedford County Civic Association, The Johnston County Civic Association, and The Roanoke Valley Civic Association.
Connie Downing was a journalist and editor who served as the Staunton News Leader’s editor from 1977 until she died in 2010. She was well-known for her writing and editing skills and advocated for the news media.
Downing began her career as a newswriter for the Staunton News Leader in 1971. She was promoted to associate editor in 1973 and editor in 1977. During her time as editor, the paper won several awards, including two regional journalism awards. Downing also served on numerous editorial boards throughout her career.
Downing died on March 20, 2010, after a long battle with cancer. She was 81 years old.
Helen Gentry, a longtime Staunton News Leader writer and editor died at her home on Saturday after a long illness. She was 87.
Gentry was born in Staunton on February 22, 1923, the eldest of three children of Floyd and Estelle (Welborn) Gentry. She graduated from Immaculate Conception High School in 1941 and enrolled at Virginia Polytechnic Institute, where she majored in journalism. After serving during World War II as a secretary for the U.S. Navy in Europe, she returned to VPI and earned a degree in journalism in 1948.
She started working for the Staunton News Leader in 1949 as an assistant news editor. In 1953 she became the news editor and held that position until retiring in 1986. During her tenure at the paper, Gentry wrote nearly 2,000 news stories and edited more than 1,000 others. In addition to her writing and editing skills, Gentry was an accomplished photographer who took many pictures of news events during her career with the newspaper.
After retiring from the Staunton News Leader, Gentry wrote articles for various publications until she became ill last year. She is survived by her husband of 64 years, Everett Denton; two daughters; five grandchildren; four great-grandchildren; and one sister-in-law. A memorial service will be held at First at 11 a.m. on Sunday, February 10.
Best Staunton News Leader Obituaries Warren Phillips, a longtime columnist and editor with The Staunton News Leader, died Saturday at 84.
Phillips worked for the paper from 1963 until his retirement in 2009. In those years, he wrote a column and edited the newsroom. He was also an accomplished author and frequently spoke on civic issues.
“He was one of our most popular writers,” said current News Leader publisher Mike Adamcik. “We lost a great citizen when Warren passed away.”
John Beasley, the longtime Staunton News Leader editor, died Wednesday night at his home after a long illness. He was 73.
Beasley came to the News-Leader in 1978 as assistant managing editor. In 1981 he was promoted to news editor and held that post until his retirement in 2010. During his tenure as news editor, the paper won numerous awards for its coverage of local and state politics and investigative reporting.
“John Beasley was one of the most respected journalists in Virginia,” said News Leader Publisher Lewis Katz. “He was a hard worker who cared deeply about his newspaper and its mission.”
Beasley is survived by his wife of more than 40 years, Pat; two daughters, Tracey and Lisa; three sons, John Jr., George, and Chris; eight grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren. A memorial service will be held Saturday at 2 p.m. at Christ Episcopal Church in Staunton.
Alfredo Martinez-Gonzalez, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who was Staunton’s news leader for over two decades, died on February 1 at 86. Martinez-Gonzalez worked as a reporter and editor for The News Leader in Staunton from 1974 until his retirement in 2006. He won a Pulitzer Prize in 1992 for his series “Migrant Children: A Class Divided” about unaccompanied Central American minors who have settled in the region.
Antonio Perez-Garza, 73, died on July 17 at his home. He was an editorial writer and columnist for the Staunton News Leader from 1992 to 2013. He also wrote a weekly column for USA Today from 1998 to 2013. Perez-Garza was born in Mexico City and received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin in 1962. He later earned a master’s degree from Vanderbilt University and a journalism fellowship from the National Endowment for Humanities. Perez-Garza began his career as a reporter for the Houston Post before moving to Staunton in 1982 to become an editorial writer and columnist for the News-Leader. He covered local politics, education, business, and government during his 38 years with the newspaper.
In addition to his work as a journalist, Perez-Garza served as president of the Virginia Press Association in 1994 and chaired the board of directors of Alleghany Regional Library System from 1995 to 2002. He is survived by his wife of 41 years, Pamela; two daughters, Mercedes and Margarita; three grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.
In 1992, Antonio Perez-Garza joined the Staunton News Leader as an editorial writer and columnist. Throughout 38 years with this local paper, he covered local politics, education, business, and government–making him one of its most experienced reporters. As president of the Virginia Press Association in 1994 and chairman of the board of directors of Alleghany Regional Library System
Della Pava, a longtime Staunton news leader, has died. She was 82.
Pava was the first woman ever hired by the Staunton News Leader and held many prominent positions in the journalism industry throughout her career. From news editor to business manager, she played an essential role in shaping the editorial direction of one of eastern Virginia’s most prominent newspapers.
In a statement, publisher Bill Broyles said: “Della was a trailblazer in her field, and her contributions to journalism will be remembered long after she’s gone. Our sympathies go out to her friends and family.”
Pava is survived by her husband, two daughters, five grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.