Don Drew poses with former New York State Gov. George Pataki in May 2008.
The family here at Denton Publications lost one of its own last week when our longest serving employee Don Drew passed away.
Don died in the early morning hours of Jan. 31 at the Horace Nye Nursing Home. He was 77.
Don was a fixture at our main offices in Elizabethtown, where he was known for being the first to arrive and the last to leave. Sixteen or even 18 hour shifts were not uncommon to Don.
He began his storied career in March of 1959 and had at one time or another done it all here from delivering newspapers to working his way into the position of production manager.
He worked through a plethora of technological advances during his four decades here, from the age of hand setting lead type to offset printing, to operating sheet-fed presses to today’s modern web presses.
A veteran of the U.S. Air Force, Don was a self taught man, who prided himself in acquiring the skills needed to operate new equipment that came along as the company grew and changed with the times. He then eagerly shared that knowledge with new and existing employees, helping the company grow into the success it is today.
Don worked under three owners, first handling offset printing duties for the founder of Denton Publications William Denton Sr., then, later working with Bill Denton Jr. after he assumed the helm as president of the company and lastly under current president and CEO Dan Alexander.
Contacted in Florida, Bill Denton Jr. remembered the following about Don: “Don was one of my boyhood friends. He joined the Denton Publications family shortly after he returned from his tour in the Air Force. At that time the business consisted of just the Valley News, with my father, myself and Don putting the paper out every week.”
Denton lauded Don’s commitment to the company and his tireless work ethic.
“Don was an extremely hard worker and could be found working in ‘the shop’ at almost any time during the day or night.”
Alexander also has fond memories of Don.
“Don Drew was the glue that held the production of the company together after Bill Denton, Sr. retired and right up until his untimely illness in the late 90’s,” Alexander said. “Don’s commitment to the company and our customers was never compromised. There were times when Don might not leave the facility for three days or more. I will always be indebted to the support and friendship of Don Drew.”
During Don’s tenure, he witnessed many changes and even faced some hardships. In November of 1979, he was one of the “eight in the attic” who became trapped in the rising waters of a flood that destroyed Denton’s offices on Water Street, prior to today’s facility on High Street.
Then, in 1984, his 4 a.m. arrival at work — not at all uncommon for Don — helped thwart an arsonist in his tracks, sending him scurrying from the building. It was later discovered that the arsonist had left several alcohol-soaked papers in various locations throughout the building with the intent of burning it to the ground.
Don was a lot of things to so many people here at Denton Publications, but he will mostly be remembered as a fiercely loyal friend, an inspiration to his co-workers and a tremendous family man to his wife Sylvia and his three sons Scott, Mike and Matt.
We here at Denton Publications owe a great debt of gratitude to Don. We would not be the company we are today without his work ethic and forward thinking, which, for decades, has kept us on the cutting edge of technology.
In a special publication we produced to commemorate our 50th year in business in 1998, Don, then 63, had absolutely no plans to call it a career.
“I’m just not the retiring type,” Don said at the time.
Unfortunately, a severe stroke a few months later made the decision for him, and Don was forced to retire.
He remained a presence nevertheless, participating in company get togethers and stopping by weekly to reminisce and offer advice.
The company, he later said, would always be a part of him.
Don’s legacy will live on here, every time the lights are flipped on in the morning and every time the rhythmic whirl of the presses can be heard emanating from the rear of the building.
Rest in peace Don. As the song “Go Rest High on That Mountain,” written and recorded by country music artist Vince Gill, says: your work here on earth is done.