He was only with us at the Times Leader for six years, but Joe Lampert left a lasting impression on all of us who had the good fortune of working with him.
Joe passed away a week ago after a titanic nine-year fight against brain cancer. He was 57.
To say Joe was one of the best in this profession, would be understating his talents. Be it his writing skills or his vision and prowess as an editor, Joe was the consummate journalist.
Joe came to the Times Leader as the editor in 1996 after a long tour of duty with our sister newspapers in Wheeling. While working in the Friendly City, he gained celebrity status for his rock music columns. The Martins Ferry High graduate advanced to Ohio bureau editor in Wheeling before crossing the river to The Times Leader.
He oversaw our editorial department until 2002, cut short by his battle with cancer.
Joe never complained or asked "why me" during his last nine years. He handled the deadly illness with class, composure and unflinching courage. During that time, he came back and visited the office on a frequent basis, staying for hours on end, reminiscing with familiar faces and offering his insightful newspaper input.
During Joe's tenure at The Times Leader, I was cast in the role of sports editor. Joe was no slouch when it came to the athletic arena. He was especially in tune with the local prep sports scene. So much so that Joe scripted our annual football team predictions in verse, courtesy of Old Man River.
But possibly his greatest gift to our daily product were his incisive, educational and witty editorials. Many of which have stood the test of time as we -- when the timing is appropriate -- re-run one of Joe's gems.
Above all else, however, Joe was the ultimate family man.
He enveloped his life around his loving wife, Bridget, and their two children -- daughter, Ambrosia, and son, Abraham, who spent some time interning at the Times Leader.
Joe's boundless character was reflected in one of his final tasks.
The Ohio University Scripps School of Journalism graduate put in countless hours authoring a manuscript on his experience with brain cancer. The book is completed and it is awaiting publication.
Friends and family members will celebrate Joe's life today at 4 p.m. with a service at Undo's West in St. Clairsville followed by a wake.
I will be forever indebted to Joe. He helped school me for the duties I currently perform, those that he so peerlessly carried out for all too short a time.
Joe has passed away, but his impact lives on at The Times Leader.
THE MARTINS Ferry Chamber of Commerce held its monthly meeting Tuesday with a large turnout.
City resident Richard Hord delivered a nice presentation on the Martins Ferry Hall of Honor. He noted this year's induction ceremony will be held Sunday, April 3 at the high school cafetorium.
Mayor Phil Wallace noted that an Easter egg hunt will be held in the city on April 16. He also said that some trees in the business district are causing bricks to elevate. Chamber members pondered possible solutions.
During committee reports, it was revealed that the fireworks show is facing funding problems. One of the major Sky Show sponsors has greatly reduced their contribution, resulting in the need for ways to make up for that loss in funding. Bob Zilai and Dan Stephens are serving as co-chairs for the fireworks show.
It was also reported the annual bowling challenge proved a huge success. A late afternoon shift was added as many teams opted to bowl a second time. Jacob & Sons won the actual division while a high school team was the novice division kingpins.
The Lions Club's newly formed Leos Club also held a bake sale at the bowling event and enjoyed a profitable afternoon.
Tickets are still on sale for the chamber's annual steak fry March 26. Tickets are available from any chamber officer or at the chamber office.
Greg Heslop, chairman of the Academic Awards Banquet, said plans for the event will be heating up the next few weeks. He said that a year ago, the WesBanco event featured more than 800 guests. Heslop is hoping that number is closer to 900 this May.
Paul Riethmiller, city council's liaison to the chamber, presented his report, noting the Census totals show Ferry lost 300 residents in the last decade, but still remains the largest community in the county with 6,915 residents. He said remaining a city will help funding for Ferry.
He also said the Lions Club will be awarding two $500 scholarships in conjunction with the Academic Awards Banquet. The recipient must be a Leos Club member, which there are 33.
Riethmiller added that the Civics organization is looking into repairs for the backstop at the Hill 'N Dale baseball field. He closed by saying that when the county begins operating at the former South School building it will mean 50 jobs now and possibly up to 85 down the road.
The chamber will meet again on April 19.
THE BELLAIRE Chamber of Commerce conducted its monthly luncheon Thursday at the Sons of Italy.
The group passed a resolution in support of the Bellaire School District's 1-percent tax issue on the May ballot.
It was also announced that an Easter egg hunt will be held Saturday, April 16 at the park. The All-American Days Festival Committee is sponsoring the event.
Chamber officials noted that it now has 71 members with hopes of reaching 90. The next chamber meeting is April 21.
ONE OF the nice features of the monthly Bellaire Board of Education meetings is recognizing noteworthy achievements. At this past Monday's meeting, one student was inadvertently omitted from the honors list. Sydney Stolz has been recognized as one of the high school's students of the month.
I WOULD be remiss if I didn't congratulate Gene Ammirante on a most outstanding basketball coaching career. Serving as head coach for 30 years at the same school is remarkable. Winning almost 500 games is equally remarkable. More importantly, Gene is one of the nicest guys in the profession, who donates countless time to kids at various camps and clinics. He is a Bellaire High institution.
WE ENJOY when our readers submit letters to the editor. We like your feedback. Elections obviously spark a wave of letters, but Senate Bill 5 may have generated more letters to the editor than any other topic. Nearly all of them were opposed to the legislation, as am I. Keep writing, regardless of the issue, just do so in professional fashion and sign your name.
I AM a big Joe Zelek fan. He is a super singer and a class act who remembers his roots. The country singer's donation of an autographed Brad Paisley guitar to the Martins Ferry St. Mary's School's Luck O' the Irish auction was a great gift.
FOR ANYONE who didn't see Tuesday's USA Today, Jerry Lucas was named the greatest basketball player in Ohio history. Bridgeport's own John Havlicek was a very close second.
Kapral may be reached at email@example.com