Local newspaper man dies at 83, managed Tri-County Newspapers

By Roxie Murphy, Staff Writer
Posted 10/21/20

Ronald “Ron” James Lewis, 83, manager of the former Belle Banner, Bland Courier and Maries County Gazette, died Oct. 13 following a slow recovery from two heart surgeries. Local friends …

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Local newspaper man dies at 83, managed Tri-County Newspapers

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Ronald “Ron” James Lewis, 83, manager of the former Belle Banner, Bland Courier and Maries County Gazette, died Oct. 13 following a slow recovery from two heart surgeries. Local friends and business owners who worked with Lewis remember him fondly.

“He got to be real special to us,” said Lisa Halbert, owner/manager of Double L Country Store.

Halbert was new in town when she first met Lewis. She said she was looking for people to connect with and when she recognized the surname of the advertising manager at Tri-County Newspapers, she realized his brother was her high school principal in Ellington.

“It went from there,” Halbert said. “He was such a sweet person.”

In 2011, Halbert was a co-owner of the New Horizon Styling Salon — a small business she co-purchased before she moved to Belle.

“I had Ron in my $5 club at the shop because he had nothing (hairwise) on top,” Halbert said. “He was always super sweet.”

When Lewis’ wife Brenda Lewis passed away, Halbert noticed a change in her friend.

“He wasn’t the happy, perky person that he had been,” she recalled. “We had to do something to make him smile again. One morning we started to fight over who would ring him out. It was a game. It meant nothing to anyone else, but it was the world to us and he would start smiling and be Ron again.”

As the local newspaper man and advertising agent, Halbert said her relationship with Lewis extended to her business. He would recommend advertisements and make sure her business was placed in the right section of the paper to be noticed.

“I got the best for my buck,” she said. “He knew his business.”

Halbert said Double L Country Store has a morning and afternoon crew that comes in to drink coffee and chat. Lewis was part of the morning group.

“The morning crew is special to us and when we lost him, it left a hole, but I will always have pleasant memories of Ron,” Halbert said. “He was a sweetheart and I don’t think we could say enough about him. He touched lives without knowing it.”

Halbert said she would miss not seeing him this year to drop off the annual coloring contest pages.

“Now that he is gone, it’s definitely an icon in our community that we have lost,” Halbert said.

Lisa Heidbreder worked for Lewis at Tri-County Newspapers as a typesetter in 1994 and remembers he was a good boss.

“Ron was a great guy, the best boss I have ever had,” Heidbreder said. “He was patient and easy going. He never got too excited about anything and went with the flow.”

If papers were running behind, he was calm. He was likeable and never met a stranger.

“I posted on Facebook that he had passed and a man from Rosebud commented that he was sorry to hear it and enjoyed visiting with Ron when he delivered papers to Rosebud,” Heidbreder said.

She remembers Lewis taught her a lot about the newspaper business in a short amount of time.

“If they could have paid me more, I would have stayed,” she said, noting that after 20 years of working for the state, she still considers working for Lewis the best job she has ever had.

Even years after she quit Tri-County Newspapers, Lewis and his wife would greet Heidbreder with a friendly smile and ask about her family.

“Even a couple of months before, he would give me a hug and ask how the girls was doing,” Heidbreder said. “He was very personable. We had a lot of good and fun times.”

Before Heidbreder worked at Tri-County Newspapers, Cindy Barbarick held the receptionist position in 1985.

“I worked there for almost 15 years and had lots of good memories with Ron,” Barbarick said. “I enjoyed working there and Ron was a special guy.”

A graveside memorial visitation and memorial service was conducted at the Cabool Cemetery yesterday (Oct. 20). Expressions of sympathy may be made to the First Baptist Church of Belle.

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