Simply referring to Bob Voris as a newspaperman is like calling Stan Musial just a baseball player. The man’s legacy, like Musial’s, remains the standard of his profession the likes of which we may never see again.
But not only was Voris probably one of the best newspaper editors to grace this planet, he was also a key figure in the shaping of Waterloo as it stands today.
Voris passed away Monday at the age of 83. He had been a resident of Magnolia Terrace at Oak Hill in Waterloo along with wife, Pat, for the past few years.
Visitation is set for 4 to 8 p.m. Thursday and 9 a.m. until time of service Friday at Quernheim Funeral Home in Waterloo. Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Friday at the funeral home.
Voris worked as a third-generation editor and publisher of the The Waterloo Republican newspaper (later known as Republic-Times) for 40 years, retiring in February 1992.
The newspaper was founded by his grandfather, H.C. Voris, who worked as shop foreman for the Waterloo Advocate and in 1890 bought the Advocate and changed its name.
Bob’s father, Bryant Voris, took over after H.C., serving as editor from 1941 until his death in 1962. Bob carried on the family business, eventually co-owning the operation with his sister, Jean Jost, for many years while serving as editor and publisher.
Naturally, Bob grew up in the newspaper office, “almost from the time he was able to reach the knob of the door separating the living room from the office,” as a 1992 article about his retirement states.
Upon graduation from Waterloo High School in 1946, Bob joined the Army and was sent to Korea.
In 1950, Bob married his high school sweetheart, Pat Quernheim. As Pat recalls, they first met when he was 2 and she was 3 in Bob’s grandmother’s back yard on Morrison Avenue.
After the Army, Bob enrolled at University of Missouri at Columbia, where he learned the offset printing process in the university’s printing department. Bob earned his degree in 1952 and went to work as assistant editor of the Republican.
It was a career that garnered impressive accomplishments, including service as president of both the Illinois Press Association and Southern Illinois Editorial Association and induction into the Southern Illinois University-Carbondale School of Journalism Editor’s Hall of Fame.
“The Illinois Press Association was saddened to learn of the death of Robert Voris, a past president and strong advocate for newspapers,” the IPA issued in a statement. “He will be remembered fondly and greatly missed.”
While the Voris family sold its interest in the newspaper to Metro Publications and Offset Printing in October 1990, Bob continued to work until his retirement in February 1992.
“You have to have a thick skin to survive in this business,” he was reported as saying often to co-workers.
In the final installment of his popular weekly column “The Country Printer,” Bob recalled the first sports action photo he ever took was of basketball player Sonny “Cleon” West scoring on a layup for the WHS Bulldogs as they defeated Belleville for the regional championship.
Also in that column, Voris recalled his 40 years of covering county fair grand champions, FFA banquets, Farm Bureau meetings, homecoming parades, centennials, sesquicentennials, fires, car wrecks, city council meetings, elections and more.
“There’s a story to go with each one of them… happy stories, sad stories. Interesting stories, boring stories,” he wrote. “Being the editor of this newspaper is the only job (I’ve) ever seriously wanted.”
Ed Rahe started as a summer intern with the Republic-Times in 1988 and later served as the paper’s managing editor.
“I learned so much from Bob in the areas of writing and photography,” Rahe said. “Of course at times he could be gruff and grumpy, but he was very kind and generous as well and really had a sense of humor.”
Bill Ohms worked at the paper with Voris from 1970 to 1991, helping with page-setting, typesetting and other press work.
“Bob was a great guy to work for. He got along well with his employees and cared a lot about his business,” Ohms said. “I liked him the moment I met him.”
Ohms said many employees would stay at the paper for many years because the Voris family treated them so well.
“I think he and I had words one time in all those years of work,” Ohms recalled. “Bob apologized later when he found out I was right.”
Beyond his passion for newspapers, Voris got involved in the community. He helped organize the Waterloo Optimist Club in 1954 and was its first president. He also helped organized the Waterloo Park District in 1955, serving as a park commissioner for 24 years.
The park district soon brought Konarcik Park and the public swimming pool in Koenigsmark Park to the community.
Voris later served as past president of the Waterloo Chamber of Commerce and even received the Chamber’s “Community Service Award” in 1992.
“Bob was a very dedicated newspaper editor, and carried on his father’s tradition,” said Marian Obst, who has known the Voris family since the 1960’s. “But he and his wife were also true assets to this community.”
Don Gleiber went to WHS with Voris, graduating one year later. The two also served together on the First National Bank Board of Directors for many years.
“Bob was always out and about and studied everything carefully,” Gleiber recalled. “Being involved with the paper, he was well-informed.”
John Pottoff, who lived next to the Vorises since the late 1980’s, said Bob and Pat were great neighbors.
“They’re tremendous people,” he said. “Gosh, we miss him.”