Republic-Times celebrates 125th anniversary

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In 2015, the Republic-Times is celebrating 125 years of serving the Monroe County community with quality weekly news coverage.

The Republic-Times is a successor to Waterloo’s first newspapers, Independent Democrat (1843), War Eagle (1845), The Patriot (1852) and Waterloo Advocate (1858).

H.C. Voris, who worked as a shop foreman at the Advocate, bought that paper and changed its name to The Waterloo Republican in 1890.

Volume 1, No. 1, of the paper appeared Jan. 2, 1890. The original investors included a number of Waterloo businesspeople and Republican leaders who wanted a voice for the local Republican party. Advertisers in that first edition included Smith’s Bile Beans, Waterloo Marble Works, H. and W. Quernheim, Waterloo Milling Co., Waterloo Brewery and photographer L. Fults.

H.C. Voris learned the printing trade in high school, working in the newspaper office before and after classes. He became a schoolteacher at Island Pond and Prairie du Rocher Commonfields School.

H.C. Voris went back into the printing business and published The Republican from 1890 to 1941.

The newspaper office also operated as Waterloo’s post office when H.C. Voris served as postmaster during the turn of the 20th Century.

H.C.’s son, Bryant Voris, continued the family tradition, serving as editor of the paper from 1941 until his death in 1962.

Last in the Voris family chain was Robert, who very successfully kept the newspaper a household name into the early 1990s.

In 1979, The Waterloo Republican purchased The Waterloo Times, morphing into the product that still stands strong today: the Republic-Times.

The Voris family sold its interest in the paper to Metro Publications and Offset Printing of St. Louis in 1990, after which the parent company of the Belleville News-Democrat eventually took ownership.

The Mahlandt family of Breese purchased the paper in 2002, but the Republic-Times once again became locally owned in October 2007 when employees joined a group of

Monroe County businessmen to take over the reigns.

Cathy Voris Gilbert, daughter of the late longtime editor Bob Voris, grew up in the newspaper family and said the newspaper was her family’s life.

“My dad was a busy man,” Gilbert said. “We went to a lot of things as a family related to his work. My mother and father always went to basketball games where he would take pictures, along with church picnics, Cub Scout events, etc.”

She said her father was always concerned with her driving because he had seen so many car accidents.

“I remember my mom making him hang his coat outside because when he went to city council meetings, people smoked,” she said. “He was a very dedicated man and a total perfectionist.”

Gilbert said her father absolutely loved the community, and it fueled his commitment to putting out the best newspaper he possibly could.

“He was especially passionate about his work with the park district and the Optimists,” she said. “He always tried to do the right thing.”

Gilbert said even though the newspaper was known as The Waterloo Republican for so many years, her father really aimed to make it more neutral to both political parties in town.

“My great-grandfather started it with a really Republican slant,” she said. “My father really wanted it to be more of a community paper, so when they merged, they dropped the ‘Republican’ because my dad felt like it wasn’t the nature of the paper anymore.”

Gilbert said her father had friends from both political parties, including a close relationship with Paul Simon, who served in the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate.

“My dad got to know him from the newspaper business because Simon was the editor of the Troy Tribune,” Gilbert said. “They forged a friendship, and though he was a Democrat, they were lifelong friends.”

She said Simon had called her dad in the 1990s and asked Bob to be his press secretary in Washington D.C.

“Even though they were on different sides of legislative issues, they both really cared about downstate Illinois,” Gilbert said. “He was considering the job, but my mom really hated politics.”

Her father’s strong point was his fairness, Gilbert said.

“He tried to have tough skin, but being a perfectionist and always wanting to do the right thing, he might’ve ruffled some feathers,” she said.

Myrtle Voris, Bryant Voris’ wife and Gilbert’s grandmother, was a widow in her early 60s and lived above the newspaper office. She got very involved with the newspaper after her husband died.

“That’s probably some of my fondest memories,” Gilbert said. “We would have Sunday dinners above the office as a family.”

She said her grandmother “held it all together” on press day, making a complete lunch spread for everyone in the pressroom.

“She really put a lot into the whole family aspect of the newspaper,” Gilbert said.

Gilbert remembered “playing office” with her cousins in the newspaper office after those dinners.

She also remembered her father telling her and her brother that if they got in trouble, their name was going in the newspaper “just like everyone else.”

“Either we never got caught, or it never happened,” she said with a laugh.

The 125-year milestone means a lot to Gilbert, who has seen the newspaper her entire life.

“I’m very proud of how long the newspaper was in our family,” she said. “I know my dad would be so happy that the staff (today) has done such a great job of being a true community newspaper by supporting organizations in town and reporting the news in a fair way.”

She said it was difficult for her family to sell the newspaper after it had been in the family for more than 100 years, but she feels like it’s in good hands.

“He would be thrilled at the website and how professionally the team has handled social media,” Gilbert said. “I’m so proud that the newspaper is still serving the county.”

Kermit Constantine is general manager. He has been a Waterloo resident since 1991 and is a member of Ss. Peter & Paul Catholic Church and the Waterloo Optimist Club.

The editor is Corey Saathoff, who lives in Columbia. He has worked at the paper since 2004 and served as editor since October 2008.

Waterloo native Amber Vogel is the office manager, and advertising sales manager is Val Chism of rural Waterloo. Tammy Taylor of Dupo serves as production manager.

Other members of the Republic-Times family include columnist/reporter Andrea Degenhart of Columbia, photographer Alan Dooley of Waterloo, web editor Ryan Ledendecker of Waterloo and reporter Robyn Dexter of Columbia.

While still providing local news in the same newspaper print fashion it always has, the Republic-Times has also kept with the times and embraced the digital age.

Those wishing to receive breaking news emails can register for free at www.republictimes.net. The popular “News Flash” email currently reaches more than 4,000 addresses and counting. Other special content is included on the paper’s website, which won Illinois Press Association awards the past two years.

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