Our longtime leader passes away

By: 
John Mueller

Wann

Chuck Wann, who worked for over 50 years with his grandfather, mother and family members to run Suel Printing and The New Prague Times, passed away this past week. He leaves behind a legacy of a family-owned publishing company committed to serving readers and advertisers and helping make the communities they serve better.

Chuck’s obituary appears on newpraguetimes.com and in this week's papers.

A memorial Mass of Christian Burial will be held Friday, April 28, 10 a.m., at St. Wenceslaus Catholic Church in New Prague, with the Rev. Eugene Theisen officiating. Visitation will be held Thursday from 4 to 7 p.m. and Friday morning from 7:30 to 9:30 at Bruzek Funeral Home in New Prague. Burial will follow mass at St. Wenceslaus Cemetery. Lunch will be served at the New Prague Golf Club.

A New Prague native, Chuck started at Suel Printing Co./The New Prague Times as a young college graduate. He learned the business from within. He encouraged his staff to “work smarter, not harder” and frequently told the reporters, “It’s better to have the facts right, than to be first with your news story.”

The “Times Extra” started as a monthly tabloid shopper, reaching most households the second week of each month on Tuesdays. Chuck was responsible for its birth, even though his grandfather wasn’t totally on board with the concept. In April, 1980, it was announced in The New Prague Times that “Times Extra is coming your way weekly next week!” It was mailed on Saturdays, and carried by a crew of 11 local children on Monday afternoons within the city limits of New Prague.

A revamp in December, 2007, meant full color photos were used for the first time in the the popular Business Extra feature stories.   Then in August of 2015 The Extra “grew up” with its current larger size. At the time, Chuck, who had been publisher of The Extra since its birth, shared his comments. “A publication, just like a home or business, needs an occasional update. After 38 years we decided it was time for a new look. The full-size newspaper format allows for larger, attention grabbing ads, photos and flexibility in design layout. The Extra is no longer that ‘little paper.’ It is a BIG PAPER with a big circulation of more than 19,000 homes. We are very proud of what we offer both our readers and advertisers.”

 

His guidance

He also spearheaded the purchase of the Montgomery Messenger in 1988 and the Lake Region Life and Elysian Enterprise in 1995. Jay Schneider, the editor of the LifeEnterprise, remembers Chuck’s willingness to give a “wet-behind-the-ears, young journalist” a chance to take over the reins of the Elysian Enterprise and Waterville Lake Region Life almost 30 years ago. During that time, he learned so much from Chuck. Schneider had a few years experience under his belt in this business, but nothing compared to the experience Chuck had as an owner

of the papers.

“He guided me for years on things I had no idea about. There was never a time I couldn’t pick up the phone and ask Chuck about this or that. He was always there to lend a helping hand, teach me about parts of the business I had never dealt with, and in the end, help me do what I needed to make these papers successful,” Schneider said. “To have a hands-on owner who also let you work through things on your own was special. His love and knowledge of this business cannot be denied. His 50-plus years proved that. Chuck was that type of guy, newspaper knowledge aside, who stood out in a room, made people feel welcome, and was always in the middle of jokes and laughter.”

Wade Young, the former editor of The Montgomery Messenger, recalls staff meetings with Chuck that often lasted over an hour. Their conversation often strayed from the coming week’s edition.

“For me, talking to Chuck felt like I was talking to my dad who had passed away in 1997. He was always interested in my life outside of work, my family and what my kids were up to,” he said. “That was special to me, because it felt like he was more than my boss. Chuck taught me everything there was to know about the weekly newspaper business.”

From ad sales to covering council meetings and human interest stories, Chuck knew every printed word in the paper mattered, Young said. Accuracy was the most important aspect of journalism he would always say, because that was the bedrock for trust in the newspaper. “Everyone knew Chuck, especially in New Prague. When I told people who I worked for, they would immediately say, ‘Oh you work for Chuck Wann. He’s a great man.’ I would respond with, ‘Yes. Yes, he is, one of the best’.”

 

A family business

As a family-run business, Chuck and his brother, Art, handled different facets of the operation. Art joined the company in 1982. Chuck oversaw The New Prague Times and Art ran Suel Printing’s commercial printing operation.

“He gave me some direction and helped every now and then with questions. We worked well together and usually agreed on most company operations,” Art said. “Chuck was always concerned that the newspaper reflected what was important to the community and that the contents were impartial, accurate and be a resource of community pride. He was a great brother and newspaper man, just like our grandfather, Arthur J. Suel.”

Today, Suel Printing is known for its roots in the communities it serves. Longtime Ad Manager Mark Slavik remembers when Chuck was looking for someone to fill a position in the ad department for The New Prague Times.

“We chatted about it. After much discussion, neither one of us knew for sure if it would be a good fit. He said give it a try,” Slavik said. “Forty-four years later, I’m still ‘giving it a try.’ Needless to say, Suel Printing Company is known for employee longevity. When you work for a family business, losing one of its members is like losing a family member.  Whenever Chuck came into the office, he had a cheery greeting for the staff, addressing them each by their name and always showing interest in what was going on in their lives outside of the office. He will be greatly missed by the Suel Printing Co. family.”

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