Dedicated to the citizens of Mason County, Washington since 1886

Former Journal co-owner dies

Stephen Gay brought past battles to life

As part of the third generation of a newspaper family, Stephen Gay helped bring the present into focus as a printer and advertising manager at the Shelton-Mason County Journal.

But his passion in his spare time was bringing the past back to life, re-enacting settlers’ battles with Native Americans of the 1870s as a founder of the Frontier Soldiers Association, and World War II battles as a co-founder of Friends of Willie & Joe.

“In my mind’s eye I shall always remember Stephen driving around Shelton in his World War II-era Jeep,” Jeff Green, a former Journal reporter, wrote in an email to the paper. “He was a serious WWII re-enactor and had the complete combat uniform, including helmet and other items.”

Gay died Aug. 11 at Tacoma General Hospital after a six-week bout with sepsis and its complications. He was 72.

A memorial for Gay will be at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Olympic Flight Museum, 7637 Old Highway 99 S.E., Tumwater, at the Olympia Regional Airport. A reception will follow. Masks are strongly recommended.

His parents, Henry and Fern Gay, bought the Journal in 1966. The family owned it until selling it in 2008, nine years after Henry died.

The family owned a newspaper in Buckley in King County when Gay was born in 1950.

“He grew up playing Army in a field in Buckley,” said his son, Joshua.

While attending Shelton High School, he worked as a pressman’s assistant, and then moved on to foreman in charge of the pressroom and physical plant, and finally the advertising manager.

“He was one terrific guy to work with,” said former Journal office manager Donna Kinniard, who worked at the newspaper from 1989 until 2020. “He was full of life and enjoyed things. He was easy to work with, and always eager to help.”

Kinniard said Gay often showcased his World War II Jeep at classic car shows.

“That was his pride and joy,” she said. “He loved that Jeep … That was so much a part of him.”

Green recalls Gay using the vehicle to bring together the past and the present.

“That Jeep came in handy one snowy afternoon several winters ago when two World War II veterans spoke at the Shelton Historical Museum about their wartime experiences in Europe,” he wrote. “Stephen drove his Jeep to the meeting and dispatched to Kamilche to transport one of the elderly gentleman.

“They arrived red-cheeked and chilled, since the Jeep either had no heater or at best possessed a small one. The veteran was bundled up in a blanket, but seemed refreshed by getting one more ride in an authentic Jeep. Stephen saved the day.”

Green added, “Stephen wasn’t a reporter — he was in charge of printing and ran the big press the Journal then used — but like his father Henry, brother Charlie and sister Julie, he stayed current on things and had a deep passion for local news, passing along tidbits he picked up around town,” Green said.

Green noted that Gay always observed National Pie Day, and brought fresh-baked pies to share at the Journal.


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