Former Sedalia Democrat Publisher Frank Lyon died Wednesday afternoon at the age of 69 at the Missouri Veterans Home-Warrensburg.
Lyon started his roughly five-year career at the Democrat in 1995 when Freedom Communications bought the publication, staying with the company until his retirement in 2001. Most employees who worked at the Democrat at the time remember Lyon as a publisher who deeply cared about his employees.
“As our publisher he was the kind of man who thought of the employees first,” said former reporter Latisha Koetting. “… He thanked them, he was always trying to find ways to show his appreciation for the staff. He was very approachable and very interactive — you could tell, you had happy workers. People wanted to come to work, wanted to give 110 percent, and that is a lot because he instilled that kind of energy in the building.”
“He was one of the nicest people you could come across for a boss,” said Production Manager Pat DeHaven, who worked as a pressman during Lyon’s tenure. “… I know he asked us to stay late one Friday to work on a job and he paid us overtime, and gave us each a $50 bill.”
Koetting said she remembered that same scenario happening with the pressmen one Christmas Eve, with Lyon stopping by the pressroom to give a $50 Christmas bonus that came from Lyon’s wallet, rather than from the Democrat’s budget.
“He cared about us, he took care of the employees,” said Becky Baker, who works in composing. “He always tried to do right by the employees.”
Advertising Manager Eddie Crouch was working as a sales representative while Lyon served as publisher, and she said she remembered how he always had a smile on his face.
“I remember he was friendly and smiling; he brought a positive attitude when he came,” she recalled. “… He was a very compassionate person and genuinely cared about people. I don’t think he knew a stranger.”
That generosity extended past the Democrat office. Lyon was involved in the Sedalia community, including the Rotary Club, the Boys & Girls Clubs of West Central Missouri, and Sedalia-Pettis County United Way.
Sales Representative Tom Martin remembers Lyon as the man who hired him for his current position in 1998.
“He was fun to work for and a good guy. He was good at resolving issues immediately,” Martin said. “He knew the press, advertising, circulation — he was well-versed on everything about the paper.
“… If he knew I was having a problem with an ad or an advertiser, he immediately tried to step in and help right away to solve it. He was a good guy.”
One of Koetting’s fondest memories of Lyon was when he gave her permission to continue running the veterans page each week in the Democrat after the initial plan of three months had ended.
“To me he was life-changing because he is the man who allowed me to have the veterans page,” said Koetting, who now works as the volunteer coordinator at the veterans home. “Back when I initially started, we had a request for veterans stories; we had six on Veterans Day and one a week for the next three months. I approached the editor about continuing the veterans page, and he said I had to go to talk to Frank.
“Frank said he had one question, and he asked, “Do you think you can keep it filled?’ and I said, ‘Absolutely.’ I did it for 13 years. If he had not said yes, there would have been over 300 stories that wouldn’t have been told.
“I’m so grateful for him because I wouldn’t be where I’m at today if not for him. He saw something in that opportunity and I don’t know how you thank someone for that.”
Funeral arrangements are under the direction of Rea Funeral Chapel in Sedalia. A date for services was not set at press time.
Nicole Cooke can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1482 or @NicoleRCooke.