Paper’s former GM dies

Published 9:56 am Friday, January 8, 2010

Ron Wilmot picked the right business to be in.

The longtime newspaper man, who served as the advertising manager and general manager for The Tidewater News from 1980 until 2006, always had a story to tell.

Wilmot died Tuesday at a hospital in South Hill.

“I never met a person who could tell more, or better, stories than Ron,” said Susan Duke, who worked as advertising manager at The Tidewater News under Wilmot in the late ’80s. “He’d have the TN sales staff absolutely on the floor with laughter, and we’d beg him to tell the same stories over and over. He was very serious about his work and ours, but he was just a serious about having a good time. I will miss him terribly.”

Before his death, Wilmot, who had the nickname “Wrong Way” worked as group publisher for Womack Publishing Company in South Hill.

“I’ve worked with Ron for the better part of the last five years; first as the editor of The Tidewater News in Franklin, and then in South Hill as the assistant editor of The South Hill Enterprise, and, now in Emporia,” said Don Koralewski, editor of the Independent-Messenger. “In the newspaper business, Ron is a standout. It’s more common than not that some newspaper managers run a little hyper. They’re always worried about the bottom line, and sometimes their presentation suggests a certain insensitivity to the people they are dealing with. Ron, on the other hand, while and excellent manager and penny pincher, really possessed the capacity to see the people he was working with.

“Ron knew the newspaper business in Southside Virginia, he knew people and human nature, and he was a pleasure to be around. The news of his passing brought a lot of tears to the newsroom on Wednesday. We lost a great publisher and a great friend.”

Though many said Wilmot’s larger-than-life personality kept them in stitches, others were quick to point out that he was a sharp businessman, too.

“Ron was a great boss,” said Retta Lomax, classified advertising manager at the TN who worked with Ron for 15 years. “He was very strict, but fair. He always knew how to make you laugh. He will be deeply missed.”

Haynes Byerly, former TN publisher and owner, said Wilmot did a lot for the newspaper while running it.

“He was an excellent manager and good friend,” Byerly said. “He was good for southside Virginia newspapers.”

Franklin businessman Victor Story has known Wilmot and his wife, Joyce, for nearly 30 years.

“He was one hell of a nice gentleman,” Story said. “He and his wife both would do anything in the world for anyone.”

Story and his wife traveled with the couple, as did Ray and Linda Smith, who were in Key West with the Wilmots last week.

“We went to Key West for New Year’s Eve and spent a whole week together,” Ray Smith said. “We had dinner Monday night, and he was laughing and in great spirits.”

Wilmot had colon cancer, Smith said.

“He was real positive about that,” he said. “He was trying to manage his life with his cancer. He never complained. He was more concerned about other people than himself.”

Smith, who met his friend of 12 years while golfing, said Wilmot was a friend to everyone he met.

“He always had a great sense of humor. He didn’t take life too seriously,” he said.

Wilmot was past president of the Franklin Kiwanis Club and past president of the Franklin-Southampton County Chamber of Commerce. He was an avid golfer.

A celebration of his life will be held at 6 p.m. Saturday at Fred’s Restaurant, 107 S. Main St. in Franklin. The family will receive friends from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday at their residence in South Hill.