Lancaster Newspapers Chairman John Buckwalter Dead at 79

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By: E&P Staff

John M. Buckwalter, chairman of Lancaster (Pa.) Newspapers Inc., which publishes the Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era and the Sunday News, died unexpectedly the night of Aug. 11 while on a family vacation in Maine, He was 79.

Buckwalter spent all his 64 working years at Lancaster Newspapers, the company’s Website reported.

In 2004, he also was named chairman of Steinman Enterprises, which includes Lancaster County Weeklies Inc., Lancaster Farming Inc., Intelligencer Printing Co., Delmarva Broadcasting Co., Steinman Coal Corp. and Steinman Park Restaurant Inc.

Buckwalter was involved in development of the Lancaster County Convention Center and Lancaster Marriott at Penn Square hotel. “Despite community opposition and roadblocks along the way, Buckwalter was tenacious about the project, which had a $177.6 million price tag and was the most expensive project in Lancaster’s history when it opened in June 2009,” the newspapers reported.

Just 17 days earlier, Caroline Steinman Nunan died at 85. She was a daughter of newspaper publisher Col. James Hale Steinman and a director of Steinman Enterprises (E&P Online, July 27).

“To lose Carrie and him, we’ve lost an awful lot this summer in the way of leadership in our city,” Lancaster Mayor Rick Gray was quoted saying.

Buckwalter started at Lancaster Newspapers as a teenage messenger and worked in various positions on his way to the top. His father, Isaac Z. “I.Z.” Buckwalter, worked for the company for 43 years.

After earning graduating from Harvard Business School, Buckwalter served in the Army with childhood friend Paul A. Mueller Jr., who became a Lancaster County judge.

When Buckwalter returned to Lancaster, he worked in the newspapers’ advertising department.

In 1978, Buckwalter voted with other directors to keep the newspapers’ headquarters in downtown Lancaster rather than move to a suburban site under consideration.

The newspapers’ Website quotes Buckwalter saying in 2006, “The thinking was that this was probably the best decision for Lancaster Newspapers, but undoubtedly the best decision for the community.”

Among the significant investments with which Buckwalter was involved were the company’s production plant, built in 1982, and the $13.5 million flexo press installed there six years later.

Buckwalter saw the business through the current difficult economic times, including last year’s merger of the Intelligencer Journal and Lancaster New Era into one newspaper and the accompanying job losses.

Besides serving on the boards of the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association and the International Newspaper Advertising Executives, Buckwalter was a member of several local civic and business organizations.

He is survived by his wife of 55 years, Sara “Sally” Tucker Buckwalter, three daughters and several grandchildren.

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