Past Sun-Gazette leader recalled
e formed a key part of a family legacy rooted in the newspaper business, but is perhaps best remembered as a caring and kind man.
Former Williamsport Sun-Gazette President John E. “Jack” Person Jr. died July 29 at age 100, but not before leading the newspaper through some of its most transformative years and leaving his mark on the community and the lives of people.
“You would have never guessed that he was head of our company,” former Sun-Gazette Editor Dave Troisi said. “He really related well to regular folks.”
Troisi recalled being a young reporter and stranded at a bus station in Sunbury in the middle of the night while en route to Williamsport. When Person learned of the situation, he took it upon himself to drive to Sunbury to pick him up.
Working for Person, Troisi said, was simply a joy.
“He really understood the uniqueness of a family newspaper,” he said. “He let everyone do their jobs.”
Jim Gates, who put in 38 years at the Sun-Gazette including time as national advertising manager, fondly recalled Person.
“He was a wonderful boss and a wonderful uncle,” Gates said. “He was a very modest
individual. He did an awful lot for the community and didn’t want recognition for that. As far as the Sun-Gazette was concerned, he always made sure the reader came first.”
Person’s son, Tom, also worked for a time at the Sun-Gazette, and recalled his father’s philosophy about the newspaper business.
“He loved the community. The information he could get to the community correctly was important,” he said. “He learned that from my grandfather.”
Jack Person followed his father, John E. Person Sr., and grandfather, Elmer E. Person, in the family business, taking over as president in 1964. He remained in that position until 1990 when the newspaper was sold to Ogden Newspapers.
During his tenure, the newspaper underwent various changes to best serve its readership, including expansion of the physical plant at 252 W. Fourth St. to accommodate a new printing press.
Tom Person said his father felt it important that businesses buying advertising in the newspaper receive fair rates.
“We wanted to see them build their businesses,” he said.
Added Gates: “He felt the advertising rates should be fair and affordable.”
Important too was that newspaper employees were treated well.
“Many did work there long and even retired from there,” Tom Person said.
Jack Person served on various boards and community organizations throughout his life.
“He was a big promoter of the United Way,” former publisher John Yahner, who worked in advertising sales under Person, said.
Yahner recalled Person as a “very dedicated newspaperman who treated employees well.”
“He was quite the individual, that’s for sure,” he said.
Longtime Sun-Gazette employee Connie Tobias, who serves as director of human resources, also recalled Person as a caring and considerate man.
“I always found him to be a gentleman,” she said. “I have a soft place in my heart for him.”
There was the time, Tobias recalled, when she lost a stone from her ring and Person was on his hands and knees on the floor trying desperately to find it.
Linda Neupauer, another longtime employee, said, “He was a great man … easy to get along with. He was very fair and generous to employees and very kind to everyone.”
Added Tom Person: “He didn’t look for acclaim in anything he did.”
He was a man, he said, who enjoyed coming to work.
Sun-Gazette Publisher Bob Rolley, employed as a reporter in the 1980s under Person, said he remembered him as a warm, friendly man who cared deeply about his family, the community and the newspaper.
“It was especially wonderful to work here back in the day when many of the Person family also worked at the newspaper. It truly was a family atmosphere. They all are in our hearts and prayers with Jack’s passing,” he said.
Person was born and died in Williamsport.
He was preceded in death by his wife of more than 70 years, Charlotte “Honey” (Tepel) Person, and a son, David.
In addition to his son, Tom, he is survived by sons John E. Person III and Michael R. Person, as well as 11 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.