Obituary – Lawrence Hager, Jr.

Posted November 23, 2016

Lawrence W. Hager, Jr, 93, of Owensboro, passed away Saturday, November 19 at Owensboro Health Regional Hospital. Born in Owensboro, a son of the late Lawrence W. Hager and Martha Augusta Brown Hager, he was a graduate of the Kentucky Military Institute, attended Centre College and graduated from the University of Missouri. He was a United States Army veteran of World War II, being awarded the Purple Heart, and a member of Wesleyan Heights United Methodist Church.

Also preceding him in death were his brother, John Hager and his sister-in-law Marjorie Hager. During his tenure as acting publisher of the Owensboro Messenger & Inquirer, Larry kept his family’s newspaper on the cutting edge of technology, always seeking to publish more accurately and efficiently. He said that his most valuable contribution to the paper was the introduction of computerized typesetting. It removed the otherwise-arduous task of laying out the paper by hand.

He also took pride in managing the newspaper’s conversion from hot to cold type print, a printing technology that produced text on paper, similar to typewriters, instead of creating blocks of text at a time.

However his most valuable contribution may have been his ability to lead by example. He helped his employees capitalize on their strengths and in so doing, created many devoted “lifers” as employees. Larry was a little-recognized innovator, a problem-solver with an engineer’s mind – fortunate qualities at a time when the industry needed to catch up with the around-the-clock presses. For example, Larry bore witness to his employees’ difficulty in producing double-spread pages (usually slated for the grocers who wanted them).

His employees had to build ads and then transfer them to a plate for print, which was unreliable. It was a laborious task that needed a better solution. Larry had his film supplier find him an old process lens and he built his company’s first double page process camera.

He also devised an automated want-ad system for the paper, and he created a timer that solved his Associated Press synchronization problems for capture of the day’s news feeds. In summary, Larry was deeply vested in his family’s paper and in the people who helped make it great during his time at the helm.

At one momentous point in time, Larry realized that the newspaper could benefit from a research library. He set about creating a library system for the newspaper and it was in his search for a clerk/librarian that he came across the woman who would become his wife, Frankie Scott. She was hired in 1956 and they married a year later. Their marriage has lasted 59 years. Though he had a love-hate relationship with politics, he was captivated by the political process. He is quoted as saying, “Political win is everything, political values are all but non-existent.” He believed that his “party” was vested in community progress, which he remained dedicated to until his death. He wanted elected politicians to meet the needs of the day, not their own agendas.

Larry was an education hero. He believed that education remained chronically underfunded, many times the result of budget short-falls, and that public schools were but pawns to state politics. Tax breaks, he believed, threatened programs that attempted to level the socioeconomic playing field. The Lawrence and Augusta Hager Educational Foundation was his answer to some of these problems and was created by him in his parents’ honor in 1989.

He understood that charitable giving and community involvement, in addition to being a way to advance one’s career and gain a place among the powerhouses of the community, enriched people on a personal level.

“Service to your fellow man turns out to be the most satisfying thing (you’ll) ever do,” he once said. He encouraged others to follow suit. Larry revered Owensboro’s “old triumvirate” of community leaders: Bill Elmer of Texas Gas, Berkley Davis of GE, and Jack Tankersley of Western Kentucky Gas. Their commitment as leaders extended well beyond their positions as company heads. They cared about community building, especially Owensboro’s Public Education, a soft spot of Larry’s. A well-positioned infrastructure, Larry believed, would attract top professionals to the city.

This “investment” structure helped spawn many of Owensboro’s most notable landmarks: the Public Library, The Natural History Museum, The Fine Arts Museum, The International Bluegrass Museum, The River Park Center, and The Health Park among others. He was proud of the city he called home.

A venerable community leader, Larry was so much more than the money he donated or the honors he received. He was equal parts generous, industrious, and genteel. He remains loved by his family, including his wife Frankie Scott Hager; his son Lawrence W. Hager, III and his wife Michelle; his daughters Vanessa Roff, and Hope Boyd and her husband Morton; his grandchildren Krystal C. Hager Greenawalt, Lindsey N. Hager Serrano, Winston Alexander Roff, Miriam Augusta Roff, Jackson Thatcher Roff, Samuel Hager Newton Roff, Colby Lawrence Hager Boyd, Robert Morton Boyd, Elizabeth Randolph Boyd; a step-grandson Nathan D. English; and 11 great-grandchildren.

The funeral service for Mr. Hager will be 11 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 23, at Wesleyan Heights United Methodist Church, officiated by the Rev. Dr. James Coleman. Private burial will follow in Rose Hill Cemetery.

Expressions of sympathy may take the form of contributions to the memorial fund of Wesleyan Heights United Methodist Church or The Goodfellows.

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