PORTAGE PATHWAYS: Ravenna newsman left lasting legacy as historian

By Roger J. Di Paolo | Record-Courier Editor Published:

Edward Y. Lacey lived for newspaper work, refusing to put his pen aside as his 80th birthday approached, even when he was so ill that he could barely make his way to the North Chestnut Street office of the Evening Record.

In the last days of a career in journalism that spanned five decades, he scanned the back files of the Evening Record and its Ravenna newspaper predecessors, gleaning snippets from the past that he shared with readers in a daily column. "The Good Old Days" anchored the editorial page for many years.

The history column was the final chapter in the tale of a newspaperman that began in the 1880s, when he shunned a career in law to follow in the footsteps of his father, W.C. Lacey, who began his own career in journalism as a printer while still a boy. Father and son both would be revered as "the dean of Portage County newspapermen."

Born in Ravenna in 1859, E.Y. Lacey -- like many men of his era he was most often referred to by his initials -- was educated in the community's public schools and furthered his education at Oberlin College.

He became editor of the Democratic Press, a Ravenna weekly, in 1888, and held that position for 13 years until a serious illness forced him to give up his job. After regaining his health, he took a job with the Ravenna Republican -- the predecessor of the Evening Record -- where his father also was employed. He remained there for the rest of his life -- nearly 40 years.

Lacey's first job with the Ravenna newspaper was to serve as its Kent news correspondent, a somewhat thankless task given the rivalry between the two communities. Lacey did his job so well that the Republican's circulation in Kent doubled.

His duties grew as his health returned. He traveled by horse and buggy each week from Ravenna to Atwater, covering that community's civic, social and political activities. The Republican regularly included several columns of Atwater news -- and circulation there also doubled.

"It wasn't long until he assumed regular duties as a member of the Republican editorial staff, covering a wide range of activities," the Evening Record noted in his obituary. "Hundreds of stories -- accounts of tragedies, weddings, births, elections and unusual events -- streamed from typewriters at the Republican office and his home."

In addition to his work with the Ravenna newspaper, he also served as a correspondent, sharing news of Ravenna and Portage County with daily newspapers in Cleveland, Akron, Toledo, Columbus and Cincinnati as well as New York City and Chicago. At one point, his reporting appeared in 17 publications.

He also became a clergyman. Nearing the age of 60, he was ordained during World War I when Grace Episcopal Church found itself without a minister. In addition to working full-time for the newspaper, he delivered a weekly sermon at the Ravenna church and the Episcopal church in Hudson.

If newspapers were his first love, history was a close second. Lacey drew on his personal experience, as well as that of his father, to share the story of Portage County with his readers. Although he was not a trained historian, like his contemporary, Charlotte Weaver of Kent, he was meticulous in compiling his accounts of the past and left a legacy for future historians that endures today.

He marked his 80th birthday on Aug. 17, 1939, at Robinson Memorial Hospital, where he had been admitted six weeks earlier -- but his column "The Good Old Days" was published as usual. He wrote them weeks in advance. When he died 11 days later, the column appeared in its accustomed spot in the Evening Record with the notation "-30-" -- printer's shorthand for the end of the story.

Evening Record Publisher Albert V. Dix, who "inherited" Lacey when he acquired the Ravenna newspaper in 1928, shared a fond tribute to his friend.

"One of my wisest and best advisers was Mr. Lacey, whom I found working away in the news department. ... Frankly, I considered Mr. Lacey at the time too old to be following a profession that breathed youth and ambition. But I soon learned differently," he wrote.

"Mr. Lacey never made a lot of money in his life, yet he owned his own home and was adequately fortified financially to have spent his final years comfortably. But he preferred to work, and produce something. He loved his job and was determined to keep at it until the very end."

Which is what he did. Actually, beyond the very end: "The Good Old Days" survived its author by several weeks as the columns written before his final illness ran their course.

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