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Goodbye, David


Stonebridge Press owner dies at 66



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David S. Cutler, 1943-2010, co-owner of Stonebridge Press. Courtesy photo. (click for larger version)
March 01, 2010
BY WALTER BIRD JR.

News STAFF WRITER

The Southbridge Evening News family mourns the passing of David Cutler, co-owner of Stonebridge Press Newspapers, who succumbed to cancer at home early Sunday morning at the age of 66.

Diagnosed last August with metastasized bilary cancer, Cutler continued doing what he loved — working in and around newspapers — even as he underwent weekly chemotherapy treatments. During what would be his last visit to Stonebridge Press headquarters in Southbridge two weeks ago, an ailing Cutler still displayed his trademark humor and wit, visited briefly with editorial staff and took part in an executive meeting.

His passing leaves a void most at Stonebridge Press know will never be filled, a sentiment expressed by President and Publisher Frank Chilinski.

"David had instincts for community journalism like no one else I have ever met," Chilinski said Sunday night, hours after delivering the somber news to his managers. "I've never met anyone like him, and I know I never will again.

"I met David Cutler 20 years ago, and I liked him from the moment I met him. The longer I knew him, the more I grew to admire him as a great man, a great friend, and a larger than life force in the community news business."

Cutler spent his final days receiving hospice care at home under the loving attention of his wife, Catherine. He received many visitors over the past several days, including family members, friends and colleagues.

On Thursday night, Cutler, a Marine veteran who fought for his country and was wounded in Vietnam, was visited by three U.S. Marines, who presented him with a Vietnam-era Marine Corps cap.

As he prepared for his next journey, Cutler, enjoyed listening to family members as they read from the scores of tributes left for him on the Web site, caringbridge.org. The site registered nearly 3,000 visits from well wishers.

NEWSPAPERS

Cutler, who loved to regale young reporters with the story of how his parents started the venerable Duxbury Clipper at their kitchen table, was the founder of Mariner Newspapers. He began that venture after serving as a reporter with the Patriot Ledger. He sold Mariner Newspapers in 1989.

In the mid-1990s, Cutler bought Stonebridge Press Newspapers with his partner, John Coots.

Over the next 20-plus years, the pair guided their company through many changes and transitions. Cutler was especially proud of the 2005 launch of Villager Newspapers in Northeast Connecticut, which saw the introduction of four weekly newspapers in the Nutmeg State's Quiet Corner. They made their bow with the simple promise of going to "Every Home, Every Week." Two years later, in the summer of 2007, that model was used to launch two more weekly Villager newspapers, in Charlton and Sturbridge. These papers are now delivered by mail, upon request.

In addition to the Southbridge Evening News and the six new Villager papers, the Cutler/Coots partnership also counted among its stable of newspapers the Winchendon Courier, the Blackstone Valley Tribune, the Webster Times, the Spencer New Leader and the Auburn News.

The pair also ran Salmon Press Newspapers in New Hampshire.

MEMORIES

Evidence of Cutler's influence and inspiration could be seen in the many tributes that poured in over the final weeks of his life. They could be felt in the words spoken by colleagues who came to know him as a friend.

"I will so miss talking to David about our favorite topics; bragging about our kids, talking about our passion for community newspapers, and our love of US presidential trivia," said Chilinski. "He will be missed by so many people. I miss him already."

More than 2,000 friends and family members left remembrances in Cutler's online guestbook, including one who wrote: "I wanted to send you an email and let you know how you affected my life. I was a 23-year-old kid, fresh out of college, and got a job at the Mariner Newspapers. When I went to move out of the circulation department into advertising, I really had no idea what I was doing — did not have any experience, really. I was very unsure of myself. I was sent in to talk to YOU — the publisher — and was a nervous wreck. David, you totally put me at ease and said that we all deserve a chance to prove what we can do — and gave me the job!"

One of Cutler's colleagues in Southbridge lent these words: "To say the early days at Stonebridge where sometimes painful would be the understatement of the week. Thank you for your patience and understanding in those early days down at 25 Optical Drive. More than that, thanks for the easy conversation that clearly defined you as a great newspaperman, and an even greater human being. You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers."

Visiting hours are Wednesday, March 3, from 4-8 p.m., at Shepherd Funeral Home in Kingston. A graveside service will be held Thursday, March 4 at 10 a.m. in Mayflower Cemetery. A memorial service in Cutler's honor will be held Saturday, March 13 at 5 p.m. at First Parish Church in Duxbury.

A complete obituary can be read on page A9.

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