Kadner: Mr. Southtown simply ‘Marv-elous’
By Phil Kadner firstname.lastname@example.org October 16, 2012 9:38PM
Marv Schletz with an Elite magazine cover with his picture on it. | File photo
Updated: November 18, 2012 6:44AM
Marv Schletz was known as “Mr. Southtown” around here, or as one colleague said, “They used to call him ‘Marv-elous’ because he could find a solution to any problem.”
With luck, maybe once in your life you will run across a man like Marvin Allen Joseph Schletz.
He began working at the Southtown Economist, which became the Daily Southtown, which became the SouthtownStar, in September 1958 and retired June 30, 2006. It seemed to me that Marv often worked 16-hour days, 7 days a week.
I know he was here early in the morning when I arrived, making sure that newspapers were delivered, and was usually in the office long after everyone else had headed home.
“The man stood among the pressure of a business built on the strictest deadlines, measured and judged on the daily revenues generated, and no less than once a week he managed to save one of the newspapers as it went to press,” recalled John Stein, now automotive editor and director of custom media relations for Sun-Times Media. “I saw it for 30 years with my own eyes.”
Marv had various titles throughout the years — such as circulation director, advertising services manager and general production supervisor — but I think he was probably best known as the guy who got things done.
If a lock in the building needed replacing, you went to Marv. If the air conditioning malfunctioned, equipment broke down, a water pipe was leaking, if Marv couldn’t fix it himself, he knew who could.
What I remember best is Marv rushing out in the middle of the day to deliver a subscriber a newspaper.
He was a big shot. One of the guys in charge. But in the dead of winter, with a foot of snow on the ground, when other people couldn’t make it into work, Marv would put on his coat, get in his car and deliver the newspaper to a single reader who was upset it wasn’t on his doorstep that morning.
And the most amazing thing of all is that Marv never seemed to get angry.
“Countless times I witnessed his ability to stand still among nervous, shaking and screaming people, and, often amid reckless conduct brought on by some pending deadline or some unyielding management decision, bring clarity, emotionless direction and, always, a solution,” Stein recalled.
I never saw Marv lose his cool.
You’ve heard the poet’s line about keeping your head while all around you are losing theirs, well, Marv Schletz was a man my son.
Barbara Harrington, creative director at this newspaper, noted that “Marv set the standard for those of us who came into the newspaper business without any standards. What a role model.”
He knew people and could call them by name in every department of the newspaper — circulation, press, post-press, editorial, production and delivery.
“Marv always found a way to make things happen,” Harrington recalled. “And he was never too busy to lend an ear on a personal note when needed.”
Always busy. Never too busy.
That was Marv.
He was also the unofficial newspaper historian.
He had been with the newspaper when it was at 65th and Halsted streets in Chicago’s Englewood community and literally moved with it to a new building, 5959 S. Harlem Ave., in the Garfield Ridge community. Later, he would move the newspaper operation again to Tinley Park.
He turned the newspaper from a twice-a-week publication to a daily newspaper almost overnight in 1978 after the Chicago Daily News folded.
He was originally hired by publisher Bruce Sagan.
“Gosh, he was only a kid,” Sagan said.
Marv was just 16 years old if the information provided by the human resources department is correct. He would work at this newspaper for 48 years.
I’m tempted to say the Southtown was Marv’s life, but that would be underestimating the man.
He met his wife, Loretta (Stroud) at the newspaper. Together they raised five children who gave birth to 11 grandchildren, and Marv was as devoted a father as you could find.
How did he find the time? Marv somehow always found time, while others half as busy never seemed to have any.
“He was Mr. Southtown,” Bill Padjen, chief copy editor of the SouthtownStar, said. “Kind and thoughtful. His heart and soul were the newspaper. He always had a kind word and a smile no matter how bad the day was going or how difficult the problem to solve.”
Near the end of his tenure here, Marv often walked around the hallways, lugging an oxygen tank behind him with a breathing mask over his face.
And still you could see his smile beaming through.
Those of us lucky enough to have our names in the newspaper, who get to go out on assignments and cover the stories of the day, we have the glamour jobs.
But Marv Schletz did the dirty work, the really hard stuff and was as great a newspaperman as any I ever met.
He was also a humble guy who never bragged about his accomplishments or boasted about his work ethic.
Marv died at 70 on Thursday. Visitation is Oct. 17 from 2 to 9 p.m. at Thornridge Funeral Home, 14312 LaGrange Road in Orland Park. The funeral Mass will be at 10 a.m. Oct. 18 at Sacred Heart Church, 8245 W. 111th St., Palos Hills.
Marv Schletz always got the job done, made life easier for co-workers and was never too busy to hear someone else’s tale of woe.
I don’t think he ever waited for people to thank him. That was the one thing he didn’t have time for.
So I’ll say it now. Thank you, Marv. It was an honor to have known you.