Armfield Coffey, former editor and publisher of the Watauga Democrat who also served as president of the North Carolina Press Association, has died, the newspaper reported Monday. He was 72.
Coffey, of Boone, passed away Thursday after a long illness, according to the newspaper.
His first job at the Watauga Democrat was as a press operator. Coffey later worked as a photographer and reporter, then took over as executive editor before becoming the newspaper’s publisher.
He married former publisher Rachel Rivers, whose family owned the paper for more than a century before the couple sold it in 1994 when they retired.
The Coffeys also were active in the community, supporting programs and endowments at Appalachian State University, Caldwell Community & Technical College, and local nonprofit and service organizations. A teaching fellowship at Appalachian State’s English department was founded in honor of Rachel Rivers Coffey, who died in 1999.
The couple also donated land for a park near the Appalachian State campus.
“I’m so sorry to lose him,” said Velma Burnley, a former Boone mayor and longtime friend. “He was so generous but never wanted his name mentioned. I’d known Rachel as a young girl and I knew Armfield many years. They were both very proud of the Town of Boone. It just seems so premature for them to be gone.”
Tommy Wilson, publisher of the High Country Media Group, which owns the Watauga Democrat, said Coffey was “Mr. Newspaper” in western North Carolina and a strong industry supporter.
A graveside service was scheduled for Thursday at the Boone City Cemetery.