By CARLA MEYER
After three decades of making memories, friends and the news, the leader of the Wapakoneta Daily News is retiring.
One word can sum up her whole experience — rewarding.
Publisher Dianna Epperly packed up pictures and awards Friday afternoon during her last day of work at the newspaper — but not only packing up these tangible items — she also packed up memories she collected during the past 34 years. Memories, she says, that will last a lifetime.
“This is really a wonderful community,” Epperly said. “The citizens we serve are passionate about their news. They have big hearts.”
Epperly has worked at the newspaper for 34 years, and approximately 27 of those years she was the publisher of the newspaper. This job was not just a 9-to-5, clock in and clock out kind of job for the 66-year-old — it was much more.
“I’ll miss the people, but mostly the staff the most,” Epperly said in an interview prior to her retirement. “The day to day staff is like family. You spend 40 plus hours a week with them.”
The family-oriented business woman said the job gave her a second life, and it helped define who she is.
“My parents always taught me to be a hard worker and an honest person,” Epperly said of Georgene and Marsh Bowersock.
Her achievements are evidence she meets the criteria her parents set, as Epperly has earned many awards along the way, including winning Woman of the Year in 1990 from the Wapakoneta Business and Professional Women and Outstanding Business Person in 1993 from the Wapakoneta Area Chamber of Commerce. In 2003 she earned the Horizon Publisher of the Year award.
She also donated her time by her involvement in the Wapakoneta Rotary Club, Soroptimist Club, being a member of the Wapakoneta Area Chamber of Commerce, the Wapakoneta Area Economic Development Council and a member of the Riverside Community Center Board.
Epperly helped establish the Wapakoneta WaterPark, as she was on the advisory board and was a large part in helping with the fundraising portion of the project.
Epperly not only resided in Wapakoneta, but this is where she made her home, where she raised her family, with her husband, Lloyd, and their two children, Jim and Polly.
Epperly, who is originally from Buckland, and Lloyd were high school sweethearts who will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary this summer.
Epperly had worked part-time jobs after getting married, and taught baton lessons from her home before she landed a job at the Wapakoneta Daily News as an advertising clerk, and following this position she became advertising manager.
She had a short stint at the Sidney Daily News as their classified advertising manager before returning to the Wapakoneta Daily News as the publisher.
Epperly dealt with all aspects of the newspaper industry, including dealing with the current recession shift in the economy. She said it was a challenging time for the company.
“It’s eye opening to what we do here, that we keep doing it and do it well,” Epperly said regarding advertising, gathering and distributing the news.
Another challenging journey that Epperly experienced during her time at the newspaper was all the changes that each department underwent, regarding changes of the way the newspaper is printed and keeping up to date with new technologies.
“I had good people that learned the changes,” Epperly said. “After a while, it became a goal. When new technology came out we wanted to be the first people to try it out.”
Along her journey, Epperly noted that she had many local mentors help her get started, shared with her their knowledge and helped her to become the person she is today — including Bruce Roser, Bob Lietz, Dudley Schuler, Don Klock, Bill Shaddock and Phil Schlenker.
“I really admired what they were doing,” Epperly said of the local business professionals. “At that time, I was a woman tip-toeing through a man’s world.”
Former Wapakoneta Daily News employee Tom Bault could agree that this is a man’s world, and that Epperly should be pleased with all she has accomplished in her career.
“She always made me feel welcome here,” the former circulation manager in the mid-90s said. “I’ve always admired Dianna. It’s a man’s world, and it’s continuing to be a man’s world, and she should be quite proud of herself.”
During the last week of work, Epperly had many old friends and co-workers come in to visit and show their appreciation, at a special retirement party held in her honor, of all she has done for not only the newspaper, but also in the community in which she lives.
“I want to thank everyone here and everyone in the community for making the last 34 years as memorable as they have been,” Epperly said.
In return, Epperly was able to take all of the knowledge and experience she learned and pass it down to her employees, and some of which consider Epperly an inspiration who helped them to develop into the person that they are today.
Colleagues who worked with Epperly said that she was a hard worker and they were very appreciative of her as she had given them a start in their careers.
Former Advertising Director Karen Brown, who worked at the Wapakoneta Daily News from 1983 to 2010, said that Epperly helped her establish her career, and was a mentor to her.
“It’s just hard to imagine this without her,” Brown said of the newpaper. “It’s a well oiled machine. She (Epperly) said it’s the people that work for her, but we had a good trainer.”
Brown said that while working here, they became like family, and that Epperly really did care about her employees.
“She really cares about the employees, not just about work, but about what was going on in our lives,” Brown said. “She became a really, really good friend, more than anything.”
Epperly proved to be a good mentor for Brown, who became her protégé.
“Twenty-five years ago, if you would have said look at where we are now, we wouldn’t believe it,” Brown said. “Dianna has witnessed a lot of change. It’s a different industry today than it used to be, and Dianna was able to keep up with it all.”
But most of all, Brown said that Epperly has made her mark on the company.
“She will be missed,” Brown said. “There are big shoes to fill to whoever does it.”
During her years as publisher, she also mentored Deb Zwez, publisher at The Evening Leader. Zwez served as the editor of the Wapakoneta Daily News under Epperly. Now Zwez will take the helm at Wapakoneta.
Current Advertising Director Gayle Masonbrink said that Epperly also gave her a start in her career.
“Dianna always gave us the opportunity to try new things,” Masonbrink said. “And some of those ideas became corporate ideas. She always took a chance to try something different.”
Masonbrink, who has worked with Dianna for 14 years, said that Epperly is very active in the community.
“She is a big supporter of the community and schools,” Masonbrink said. “She helped others get the benefit of what’s available. She is a giver.”
Being active in the community helped Epperly to gain success in her career.
“The paper represents the community and Dianna is a good representative of the paper,” Masonbrink said. “She’s very community minded and a good fit for the newspaper.”
“The ‘D’ in WDN stands for Dianna,” Masonbrink said.
Epperly is planning a vacation with her husband, and once she returns, she will keep busy with her family and the opportunities that lie ahead of her.
While this is a bittersweet time in her life, she said she is excited to what is to come.