Earlier this month, two area papers, the Canby News and the Murray County Wheel/Herald, suffered a big loss. Don Beman, co-publisher of the Canby News with his wife, Ellie, died May 3 after battling lung cancer for the last four years. Will Beers, the owner/publisher of the Wheel/Herald died unexpectedly May 5 at age 80.
Both of these men had newspapers in their blood. Beers even started at the tender age of 9 at the Lake Wilson Pilot as a "printer's devil," basically helping with typesetting and other tasks around the newspaper. Beman actually started taking and selling sports photos when he was 16, going from town to town, said Carmen Ronan, who worked with Beman for 13 years at the Canby News. He went to the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, getting a degree in journalism. He was editor of Lincoln's SUN Newspapers, a group of suburban weeklies, for two years while he was at UNL.
Beers worked at the Pilot all through high school until he entered the Air Force. Beman was also a military man, joining the U.S. Army in 1966. And when both were discharged from the service, they returned to the world they loved, newspapers. Beers went on to work three more years at the Pilot and also did a two-year stint at the Marshall Independent. Beman came back to the SUN Newspapers in Lincoln. He then joined the United Press International as a statehouse reporter in the Lincoln Bureau.
Beers worked at the Murray County Herald from 1958-1978. The competition, the Wheel-Advertiser, came up for sale in 1978 and Beers bought it. Seven years later, he purchased the Herald and merged the two papers together. Back in the early days of Beers' career, typesetting involved having every character loaded in by hand. Then came linotypes and Beers became known as a "swift" linotype operator, according to an article in the Wheel-Herald.
Beers' son, Randy, joined the paper 32 years ago. Randy Beers said his dad had called him up asking if he could sell advertising for the paper. He had to make a few adjustments, but he came on board.
"He was quite a guy to work for,"?Randy Beers said.
Randy Beers said he and his father would talk about sports and news around the area while at work every morning.
"He was a special type of person,"?Randy Beers said. "He taught me everything I?know." He said his father was a hard worker and a family man.
Beman joined the Associated Press in Des Moines, Iowa, and was news editor until he was transferred to Philadelphia. During his national journalism career, Beman had covered six presidential campaigns and visits, Pope John Paul II's first visit to the United States and helped start two of Associated Press' holiday perennials - Groundhog Day with Punxsutawney Phil and figuring out the cost of "The 12 Days of Christmas."
Ben Hughes, one of the official handlers of Punxsutawney Phil, now retired, had sent a note to the Independent after Beman's death. He said they had read that one of their fans had passed away and wanted to send off a thank you and farewell. Groundhog Day in Pennsylvania had grown from humble beginnings to an international event, he said.
"Mr. Beman was there in the early days and helped to plant the seeds that have grown into an amazing holiday," Hughes wrote. "Groundhog Day is now listed on over 85 percent of all calendars in the U.S. and www.groundhog.org gets over 8 million visitors in a two-hour period on Feb. 2. Our town of 5,000 gets over 50,000 visitors on the big day. So from the weather capital of the world, we send a thank you and farewell form a small town in rural Pennsylvania."
Beers was always asked when he was going to retire. Six years ago, he was bought into the "Half Century Club" by the Minnesota Newspapers Association for more than 50 years of service. He had not missed a week of work since 1954, showing his dedication to his craft.
"Dad would come to work at quarter to 7 (a.m.),"?Randy Beers said. He said that his father would stay until 4:30 p.m., except on Fridays, and help lay out pages, set headlines and edit articles.
Beman and his wife came to Canby in December 1992 and became publishers of the Canby News.
"He (Don) was like a mentor, he was forever teaching," Ronan said. "He was the kind of boss who believed in his employees. After you were there for a while, he made you feel like family."
When Don and Ellie decided they wanted to go to a smaller newspaper, they wanted to be closer to where Don grew up - Jackson. When the Canby News came up for sale, they went there.
"It was close enough to Jackson to be back home,"?Ronan said.
Ronan said she considered Beman a fair man, one who never took sides.
"He always made the job interesting, Ronan said.