CANNON FALLS -- Old-school community journalists typically did it all. They wrote stories. They sold and designed ads. They often started at the bottom, learning the skills one by one.
That was Dick Dalton, who swept the printing floor at Cannon Falls Beacon at age 16 and cleaned the “dross pot” for hot lead used in setting type.
He left for college to study and play ball at Gustavus Adolphus College, then sold paper after graduating. He rejoined his family’s newspaper operation at age 24 in 1963.
The fourth-generation editor/publisher of the Cannon Falls Beacon, died Saturday at his home. He was 81.
“Dick served for decades on Minnesota Newspaper Association’s member services committee. He made quarterly treks to volunteer and he gave members practical, real-life advice. He also liked to laugh and hear about how others across the state were doing. Dick was soft spoken, steady with a twinkle in his eye looking for humor to lighten others up. We’ll miss him,” said Matt McMillan, CEO of Press Publications based in White Bear Lake.
MNA Executive Director Lisa Hills said the newspaper industry lost a good friend and leader.
“In 2013 he was inducted into the MNA Half Century Club. Dick was well-respected among his peers; he was a passionate advocate for independent newspaper owners,” she said.
Dalton said at the time that he was destined to have a newspaper career. "The family didn't really steer me that way. There was never any pressure," he said. "I just always felt that's what I'd be doing."
John A. Leonard founded the Cannon Falls Beacon Aug. 4, 1876, according to the Minnesota Historical Society. In 1914, Dalton’s great-grandfather Silas Sheldon Lewis purchased the paper -- having once held part ownership -- and the family legacy began. Upon Lewis’ death in May 1929, daughter Lucretia L. Lewis assumed editorial duties. Her nephew George Dalton -- Dick Dalton’s father -- became the printer, running the basement operations while she ran the newspaper upstairs.
Dick Dalton kept the business in the family, with son Mike joining the Beacon in 1992. Mike became editor in 2012.
Twenty years ago, every newspaper in Goodhue County was a multi-generational, locally owned operation. Arlin Albrecht and daughter Becky Poss and her husband, Mark Poss, ran the Red Wing Republican Eagle. Bob Noah and son Doug owned the Kenyon Leader. Dave Grimsrud and son Pete operated the News-Record of Zumbrota.
Dave Grimsrud first knew Dalton on the high school ballfield.
“He was one year ahead of me. He was just an exceptionally good athlete. Really skilled and tough guy, fast. And as a journalist, as a newspaperman, he was always really friendly. He had a salesman personality,” Grimsrud recalled.
Dalton announced his retirement this spring. He was diagnosed in April with acute myeloid leukemia.
The family will hold a private prayer service on Friday and then a celebration of life this summer.