As company president and newspaper publisher, Charles Graaskamp couldn’t possibly be everyone’s buddy. But remarkably, he made most people feel as though they were.
Employees and colleagues note that Charles treated everyone with that respect – from his top managers to the part-timers. Though his presence is now missed at the Eau Claire Press Co., his virtues remain with those who carry on his work.
Charles, longtime president of the Eau Claire Press Co. and publisher of The Country Today and Leader-Telegram newspapers, died Oct. 8, 2013, at age 79. His personality and management style were described as a special blend of competitiveness to be the best mixed with kindness and respect for his employees and all who did business with the company he led.
In 1959, wed to Joanne for just one year, the couple moved to Eau Claire where Charles started working for the Atkinson/Graaskamp-owned newspaper as the classified advertising manager of the Eau Claire Leader. He was named publisher in 1981.
A defender of freedom of information causes, he was honored in 1988 by Milwaukee chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists for his efforts to obtain a far-reaching court of appeals decision establishing that out-of-court settlements involving minors should be available to the public. Graaskamp led the company through a period of growth that included construction of a new printing facility that opened in 1998.
From 1990-2000, Graaskamp served various posts on the WNA Board of Directors, becoming president in 1998. After 42 years of service to the Eau Claire Press Company, he retired as president and publisher in 2001. He continued to serve the WNA Foundation Board of Directors from 2001-2006 as well as countless groups in his community.
A long-time employee described Charles as “far more than a signature at the bottom of my paycheck” and a man who “saw the big picture, loved his community and relished the role his company played in it.”
Charles loved Eau Claire and felt very strongly about upholding the legacy of a family owned, community-minded newspaper. That legacy will grow as sons Pieter (Press Co. president since 2001), Dan (vice president of sales and marketing) and son-in-law Mike Carlson (director of marketing and circulation) continue with the company today.