Cy Wainscott amazed technologically challenged reporters at The Plain Dealer in Cleveland, Ohio, in the 1980s with his ability to retrieve lost copy with a seemingly magical wave of his fingers.
The former managing editor of Ohio’s largest daily newspaper, who died Sunday, September 27, 2009, at age 74 at his home in Gambier, Ohio, oversaw the paper’s transition from typewriters to computer keyboards.
“When the age of computers arrived, he was in charge figuring out which system to buy and how to put the computers in a newsroom that was too small and under wired for computers,” said former colleague Rosemary Kovacs.
Wainscott also excelled at creating family crests by hand, using illustrations and calligraphy to support his extensive historical research.
At the time of his death, he was designing a coat of arms for each of the members of the Board of Trustees at Kenyon College, where he had served as managing editor of the Kenyon Review and advisor to the student newspaper, The Collegian, before retiring in 1995.
His first job was working at the movie theaters his parents managed in Rantoul, Ill., the city of his birth, and in the Champaign-Urbana, Ill., area.
He attended the divinity school at Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa, with intentions of becoming a minister with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
But while working on the college newspaper during his senior year, he had an epiphany. He was better suited for journalism than for the ministry.
Years later, during a trip to England in the 1960s, Wainscott was so moved by a service at Westminster Abbey, he switched Christian denominations and became an Episcopalian.
After graduating from Wartburg in 1957, Wainscott moved to Ohio to take a job as a reporter with the Ashland Times-Gazette. He was managing editor of the newspaper in Ashland, Ohio, before joining the Plain Dealer as a copy editor in 1963.
He was named makeup editor in 1965. He served as graphics editor, assistant news editor, editorial production coordinator and assistant managing editor before he was named managing editor responsible for editing and production in 1981.
Wainscott’s introduction of computers in the newsroom irritated some resistant reporters.
“There is no way of telling how many assuredly Pulitizer-winning stories of mine the computers ate,” said Plain Dealer retiree Don Bean. “One such moment, I was screaming and cussing a blue streak at the computer that just ate a masterpiece of mine. Cy, passing behind me, said, ‘What's the matter, Bean?’ I shouted, ‘The damn thing ate my story.’ ‘Don't worry and fret,’ he said. ‘The way you write, it will soon throw it back up.’ It really happened.”
Wainscott also is remembered for creating dozens of family crests with names of Plain Dealer people, which adorned the walls of the Headliner bar, a favorite hangout of the newsroom staff. He researched the four family surnames for married couples to design their unique coat of arms.
"When Ralph and I were married in 1983, Cy gave us a beautiful scroll merging our families names into a new crest," said Pat Gessler, Plain Dealer retiree. " It's still hanging above our fireplace"
Jim Strang, another PD retiree, reported, “When my eldest, Megan, was born (1983), he did as a birth gift to her a Strang family crest along with a sheet, headlined in Old English letters, detailing what each element meant. I assume he did this for other PD birthlings as well.”
Tom Andrzejewski, another Plain Dealer alumnus, confirmed Strang’s assumption.
“Upon the birth of our son, Cy presented my wife and me with a large, colorful heraldic narrative with calligraphy and illustrations by his own hand, derived from extensive research,” Andrzejewski reported. “ He was a true gentleman and scholar.”
He won Andrzejewski over early on.
“Cy demonstrated his golden heart on my first night as a copy boy,” Andrzejewski said. “He was then a copy editor, and in the course of the evening introduced himself and gave me a sketch of the city room. It identified all the desks and the names of the people so when an editor yelled ‘Boy!’ I would know where to deliver the copy I was thrust.”
While in the Cleveland area, Wainscott served as president of the Press Club of Cleveland and was a member of Sigma Delta Chi, a journalism fraternity now known as the Society of Professional Journalists. He also belonged to The Northeast Ohoi Newspaper Guild Local 1 and designed its logo.
After leaving Cleveland in the 1980s, he spent five years as publicity director of Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kan. He went on to work for a division of Eastman-Kodak out of Boston, Mass., that made computer systems for newspapers. He traveled the world, consulting with newspapers in New Zealand, Poland, Sweden, Scotland and England.
Wainscott settled in Gambier in 1991 and worked at Kenyon College until 1995.
His wife, Judith McCluskey Wainscott, a Plain Dealer reporter whom he married in 1965, survives.
His brother, Marc, who died three years ago, also married a woman named Judith, who lives near the Wainscott brothers’s mother, Frances McDaniel Wainscott Grantham, in Fairborn, Ohio.
Memorial service will be at 11 a.m. Saturday, October 24, 2009, at Harcourt Parish Episcopal Church on the Kenyon College campus in Gambier.
Arrangements: Dowds-Snyder Funeral Home, Mount Vernon, Ohio.
Condolences, an obituary written by Wainscott's widow and more: www.snyderfuneralhomes.com.
This obituary was originally posted on ObitsOhio.com on Sept. 28, 2009.