On January 14th long-time newspaperman Craig McKinney passed away due to complications from a stroke. He was 79.
McKinney (born Thomas Craig McKinney) was born in Hohokus, New Jersey on November 29, 1941, the second child of Thomas Craig and Adelaide Katherine Kuber McKinney. His first sister, Susan Elizabeth, died in 1942 after suffering an allergic reaction to anesthesia. Two other siblings survive him, Bruce McKinney, of California and Linda Sullivan of Maine.
In high school McKinney was a baseball and bridge player and manager for the basketball team. He made strong friendships in High School in New Paltz that lasted his entire life.
McKinney attended Ursinus College in Pennsylvania, graduating in 1963. After college he returned to his hometown to work in his family business, the Hudson Valley Newspapers, which his parents bought in 1951 for $2,500. The circulation at that time was 1,000 but by 1970 it hit 5,600. They published four weeklies: the New Paltz News, the Marlborough Record, Highland Mid-Hudson Post, Southern Ulster Pioneer (Milton), and Wallkill Valley World, covering Shawangunk. The focus was on local reporting of school, town and county meetings as well as local sporting games and events. Bruce McKinney helped to build the business and by his sophomore year in college (1966) total sales reached $100,000/yr. and just a few years later sales topped out at $175,000. In 1980 Craig’s mother gave the papers to him.
Bruce said Craig began his long career in journalism as a community reporter.
“In those days, small town weekly newspapers did little in the way of reporting, relying primarily on submitted news releases to fill the paper,” Bruce recalled. “Craig took his job seriously, and while in time he would become a columnist, editor, publisher, and owner, his first love was always getting out in the community and informing and explaining to his readers what was happening in their towns. He saw it as his responsibility, not just to report on what he saw, but to explain it as well. His aim was always to use his role as the people’s ears to better the communities he served.”
Craig’s sister Linda Sullivan is 11 years younger than Craig.
“I was 7 when he went to college, so there wasn’t that much interaction between us at that time in our lives,” she said, adding that she got to know her brother better when she was about 20 years old. She worked one summer reporting for Craig on Pine Bush, claiming that, “I learned how to write from him and working for him was a great experience.”
Linda said Craig, who never had children of his own, wrote thousands of profiles of students over the years for the paper.
“The way he described it was to help them get through their learning blocs,” she said. “His caring for other people really stands out for me.”
Linda said in the final year of Craig’s life the two became closer, especially after his emergency surgery last March.
“We’d talk not every day but almost every day and I have to say I’m terribly grateful in the last 10 months that my relationship with him deepened,” she said. “It was nice for that to happen.”
Town of Marlborough Supervisor Al Lanzetta said Craig often called to talk about different town or county issues.
“He had his own unique way of writing a story. I found them entertaining going way back to the [Southern Ulster] Pioneer days,” he said. “He was very pleasant and forthcoming and was just a gentleman. He asked the right questions and was always fair when he interviewed me. I have the utmost respect for him. I’m gonna miss him.”
He sold his Hudson Valley Newspapers in 2003 to Ulster Publishing, parent company of the Woodstock Times. Unable to put his pen down, Craig began contributing columns and his trademark senior profiles to the Southern Ulster Times a few years later.
Marlborough resident Dr. Anthony Pascale recalled that his son Nick and Craig used to debate on a number of topics that eventually led to an invitation to Nick in 1995 to write for the paper; Craig wrote a column entitled ‘As I See It’ and Nick’s pieces were called, ‘As Others See It’. Dr. Pascale called it a “good give and take.”
Pascale met Craig in 1964, “and he always kept in contact with me. He would call me about certain political things that were going on in town and he would give me his version of what he thought it was and I would give him my version and sometimes he would convince me he was right, which didn’t happen too often, but we always exchanged ideas. He had a good handle on the community and the families that run the town. He was an exceptional guy.”
Anthony Porpiglia, now 61, has known Craig since he was 16 years old.
“Through football he did an interview with me in my senior year and we started to become friends after that,” he said.
Craig helped Porpiglia get a job at Tantillo’s garage and later a job with an electrical contractor, Westside Electric. He even helped him to get into Hudson Valley Community College for electrical studies. Porpiglia said Craig was an easy-going person with whom he shared many common interests, such as sports and the stock market.
“He kind of guided me and I ran with it,” he said, adding that he lost both his parents when he was quite young and was looking for a father figure; Craig fit the bill.
Craig was excited when Porpiglia married Paula Perticaro, loves their daughter, “and acts like a grandfather to her and comes to all her events. He was part of my family and I’m really gonna miss him. He was one of my best friends.”
Rich Gerentine recalls meeting Craig after he wrote about his sporting days in high school. He said Craig’s reporting always came from his heart.
“Craig was very independent and had his own strong views and wrote what he felt was right and wrong. He was a lot of times controversial but his heart was always in the right place, and you always felt that what he was saying was correct,” Gerentine said. “Craig was a very true and honest person who did not have any particular agenda that I was aware of, but he always wrote what he believed and thought was right.”
Craig also took Charles McLean under his wing when he was about 8 years old, bringing him to football games that he was covering for the paper.
“From there I began building a trust with him. I remember I could talk to him about everything and ask for advice and he would give me all the right answers,” he said.
In a few years Charles began to see Craig as his father.
“He started literally doing everything for me to the point where my biological Dad, I know who he is, but I don’t have a relationship with, because I was already complete by having a Dad. Craig was the only one that I could express and be myself with and really talk to. It was a genuine love that he gave me.”
Charles credits Craig for giving him the confidence and support he needed to become a Hip Hop R& B artist and to be a good father to his 14 year old daughter, Tianna.
“Me and him definitely shared a bond that was so different from anybody else that I ever met,” Charles said. “He is the reason that I am the man I am today. He gave me the confidence and gave me everything that I have in life to move forward. He’s just an incredible guy and I don’t think there is a guy on this earth like him.”
Bruce McKinney said a Zoom memorial is planned but the date is not yet confirmed. For information contact email@example.com In addition, a celebration of Craig’s life will hopefully take place in September at the New Paltz Cemetery, accompanied by the uplifting sounds of a New Orleans style jazz band.