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CL newspaperman dies

Paul Zilly started out on the ground floor at the Crystal Lake Herald in 1942 – his job at age 16 was to sweep it.

Zilly worked his way up from delivering papers to publisher of the paper, which was one of eight that eventually were merged to form the Northwest Herald.

The lifelong Crystal Lake resident died Tuesday at 83 after a battle with cancer.

Friends and family said Zilly had printer’s ink in his veins – he spent 38 years at the paper.

“He loved it. He loved the town; he loved the paper,” his widow, Else, said. “Someone said that a newspaper should be the focus of the community, and he believed in it.”

While sweeping floors and cleaning presses, he absorbed lessons from the pressroom supervisor.

Not even World War II could keep Zilly away, according to a 2006 story in the Northwest Herald’s sesquicentennial edition – he would return to work while home on leave from the Navy.

He left the Navy in 1946 and earned a journalism degree in 1950 from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Zilly became editor in 1959 and continued to cover meetings and local events.

He became publisher in 1967.

Donna Santi began working in 1981 for the Free Press, which had merged years before with the Crystal Lake Herald.

She remembered Zilly as being close to his employees, and her friendship continued with him as a fellow parishioner at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Crystal Lake.

“He was the guy in the front office, always friendly and walking around,” Santi said. “It was a real family atmosphere. He really seemed to care about you.”

Chris Golbeck’s friendship with Zilly began in 1970, when at age 16 he worked at the men’s store where Zilly bought clothes. One of Golbeck’s many fond memories was from his hiring in 1978 to do ad sales – Zilly jokingly made his hiring contingent upon apologizing for years of wisecracks.

Golbeck called Zilly a great man and astute businessman who loved his hometown.

“It was all for the good of the community,” Golbeck said. “He really wanted to help Crystal Lake.”

Zilly retired in 1983 shortly before turning 58, the year before new owners B.F. Shaw Printing Co. began merging county publications into the Northwest Herald.

The visitation will be from 3 to 7 p.m. Friday at the Lutheran church, 178 McHenry Ave., Crystal Lake, with services at the church at 1 p.m. Saturday.

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