Rust Communications is the parent company of the following Northwest Iowa newspapers - Cherokee Chronicle Times, Le Mars Daily Sentinel, Kingsley News Times, Sioux Valley News, Remsen Bell, Storm Lake Pilot Tribune, Dickinson County News, and Spencer Daily Reporter,
Widely known in the newspaper industry, Lage was also very active in the Cape Girardeau community. Among many involvements, he was a longtime member of the Lions Club and the Saint Francis Medical Center board of directors. He served on boards of numerous newspaper organizations and was a member of the Missouri Press Association Hall of Fame.
He served in the Army in the late 1960s and graduated with a master's degree from the University of Missouri. Lage joined Rust Communications in 1993.
"Our hearts are aching right now," said Jon K. Rust, co-president of Rust Communications and Southeast Missourian publisher. "Wally was not only a tremendous newspaperman but a great friend -- and a rock for his family. May they feel the love of all who've known, admired and respected a remarkable man.
"We've received a flood of telephone calls and e-mails from people in Boston, Maine, Florida, Washington and places in between. All are in shock and saddened by this tragic loss. We've also heard stories from employees of Rust Communications from around the Midwest, remembering how he always made them feel at ease and was never shy with his laugh. He was a mentor to many and a friend to all."
Rex Rust, co-president of Rust Communications, said, "Wally was a remarkable man, exceptional colleague and great friend. We loved him. He will be dearly missed."
Survivors include his wife, Dori, four children and eight grandchildren.
Cape Girardeau Mayor Harry Rediger served with Lage on many community boards. Rediger said Lage was a "great, great board member for Saint Francis."
Rediger became close friends with Lage and said Lage preferred not to be in the spotlight but that his good business sense proved valuable on many occasions.
"It was such a blow and a shock to all of us," Rediger said. "He was such a dear friend. ... He had a fun-loving family attitude and was a tremendous father and family man who was so concerned about every detail in his family. I could go on and on about him being a great guy. What a loss for the Southeast Missourian, and what a loss for Cape Girardeau."
Lage began his newspaper career in 1969 with Winsor Newspapers in Canton, Ill. By age 25, he was publisher of the Boonville Daily News and publisher of free publications in Jefferson City, Mo., and Columbia, Mo.
Before joining Rust Communications, Lage was president of newspaper operations in the Paxton Media Group and general manager of the Paducah Sun. He oversaw acquisitions of several daily and weekly newspapers.
At Rust Communications, he oversaw the acquisition or startup of about 50 newspaper titles in eight states, including 13 daily newspapers.
Lage worked for more than 20 years with a newspaper organization called the PAGE cooperative. He was an original member of a committee that helped bring more than 150 non-newsprint suppliers into the co-op. PAGE helps its members obtain bulk discounts that major metro papers receive independently.
"We're talking plates, film, ink and computers," said PAGE CEO John W. Snyder. Lage's involvement in the committee "went a long way to helping the smaller and midsize newspapers survive."
But Lage's influence also resonates on an individual level with Snyder.
"He was a really good friend, somebody you could count on," he said. "A great businessman, a great friend, and I'm going to miss him terribly. It breaks my heart."
Gary Rust, board chairman of Rust Communications, said, "I cannot express how important Wally has been to Rust Communications and the industry by his Christian example and forthright management style. Our prayers are with his family, and he will be missed more than he would have ever guessed."
The Associated Press reported that emergency workers were alerted Thursday evening when Lage fell into the water and failed to surface. Deputies say Lage and friends were unloading a boat after an outing to Portland. One of the witnesses jumped into the water but couldn't find him. Emergency workers performed CPR, but Lage was pronounced dead at Mid Coast Hospital.
Services were today at St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church in Cape Girardeau.