March 25, 1926 – Jan. 22, 2014
John W. Coleman, the feisty editor and publisher of the Orchard Park Suburban Press, died Jan. 22 in Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hospital, Wellsboro, Pa. He was 87.
Mr. Coleman, known for doggedly covering people, events and government in Orchard Park, was called a “newsman’s newsman” by some, and was a gruff, rabble-rousing troublemaker to others.
He acquired the paper in 1960 and was a champion for the development and expansion of Route 219 in Orchard Park to Springville and was a fixture at Town Board, Village Board and School Board meetings.
Dennis J. Mill was town supervisor when Mr. Coleman owned the paper and recalls seeing the lights on in the Quaker Street office many evenings as the editor worked into the night.
“He was passionate about the town. He was passionate about the paper,” Mill said. “He was impatient at times, as far as things getting done.”
Mill said that he considered Mr. Coleman a friend but that never stopped Mr. Coleman from exercising his community watchdog bark and bite toward town government.
During his tenure, the community weekly won more than 80 state and national awards for editorial excellence.
He published the last edition of the paper in March 1990, closing the institution because it was out of money. He said that it “no longer is worth the effort” and the grief to continue publishing the weekly paper.
But later that year, the Southtowns Citizen was created, with Mr. Coleman as editor and his daughter Desiree as publisher.
The weekly later struggled, and it closed in 2008.
Mr. Coleman moved to Wellsboro, Pa., about 15 years ago, and worked for the Williamsport Sun Gazette, reporting on local affairs.
He was active in many community organizations in Orchard Park. He co-founded the Orchard Park Chamber of Commerce and started the Quaker Arts Festival and the town’s Citizen of the Year award.
He was a charter member of the Orchard Park Kiwanis Club, was an honorary member of the Hillcrest Volunteer Fire Company and a member of the Orchard Park Historical Society.
He also served on the facilities and implementation committees for long-range planning of the Orchard Park Central School District.
He ran for the Orchard Park Village Board as “an independent voice in village government” in 1995.
Mr. Coleman served with the U.S. Navy on an aircraft carrier in World War II and was a member of Orchard Park Post 567, American Legion, and Post 6247, Veterans of Foreign Wars.
He attended Canisius College and worked on newspapers in Buffalo, Jamestown and Erie, Pa.
He also was a staff correspondent for United Press International after a stint in industrial public relations.
Survivors include his wife of 62 years, Gloria; three sons, Mark, Jonathan and Christopher; five daughters, Adria Thomas, Desiree Cohrn, Tara Nickel, Melissa Smith and Dana Coleman; a sister, Mary Lou Travers; and seven grandchildren.
A private memorial service will be Friday Wellsboro, Pa. and a public funeral service will be held later this year in the Buffalo area.