Jack R. Kubik, 87, a longtime former resident of Riverside and former owner and publisher of Life Newspapers, died July 26 surrounded by family after a long battle with cancer.
A second-generation owner of Life Printing and Publishing, Mr. Kubik fervently believed in community journalism, said his son, Jack L. Kubik, who served in the Illinois House of Representatives.
“My dad truly believed local newspapers have a part to play in communities and make communities better,” Kubik said. “He really felt a community was better if there was a strong local paper covering it.”
Life Newspapers got its start in the early 1930s when Mr. Kubik’s father, John F. Kubik, and two partners purchased The Suburban Leader and renamed it Suburban Life. As the publication grew, it split into two separate titles – Cicero Life and Berwyn Life –and in 1936 began publishing three times a week.
Mr. Kubik joined the Life Newspapers staff in 1952, during another growth spurt that saw the company open offices in LaGrange Park and build a new Berwyn/Cicero Life office at 26th Street and Harlem Avenue.
In 1975, the company purchased the LaGrange Citizen and Graphic Herald Newspapers, extending Life’s reach into DuPage County.
It was during the 1970s that Mr. Kubik hired Judy Baar Topinka as a reporter, a watershed moment for the future state representative, state senator, Illinois treasurer and Illinois comptroller, according to her son, Joseph.
“She was given great discretion to write about local communities especially the police and the local government beats,” said Joseph Topinka. “She observed corruption, bureaucracy, waste and, most of all, restrictions on opportunities for women. These observations would influence her ideas about governmental management for her future political career. If it were not for the Life and working for Mr. Kubik, I do not think she would have ever pursued a career in government.”
Mr. Kubik was named president and publisher in 1980 upon his father’s death. According to Life’s former longtime managing editor, Robert J. Lifka, Mr. Kubik was a hands-on publisher who directed the newspaper’s editorial positions and had a hand in shaping news coverage.
“His office was next to mine, so he would often call me in to discuss matters related to the newspaper or meet one of the many elected officials from the local, state and national level who sought his support,” Lifka said. “He was the boss when he had to be, but he also liked to be ‘one of the guys,’ asking about our families, cracking jokes and even playing second base on the company softball team.”
Under Mr. Kubik’s direction, the company launched one of the first electronic newspapers, Life Newsvision. In the 1990s, Life also launched one of the first internet classified ad services in the nation and one of the first telephone and internet dating services in the region. During Mr. Kubik’s tenure, Life’s total circulation grew to 130,000 in 40 west and southwest suburbs, from Cicero to Downers Grove.
According to his son, Mr. Kubik also recognized the change the internet would have on newspaper publishing and on newspaper advertising revenues.
“He knew the internet would change the way news would be disseminated,” Jack L. Kubik said. “He was a businessman. He realized the toughest part of it all was how to provide the revenue to be able to report the news.”
In 1999, Mr. Kubik sold Life Printing and Publishing to Liberty Group Publishing. Since that time the chain has been sold twice more.
Mr. Kubik was a past president of Suburban Newspapers of America, a board member of the Illinois Press Association, the Cook County Suburban Publishers and the Suburban Press Foundation.
He and his wife, Barbara, lived and raised three children in Riverside from 1951 until 1999, when they downsized to a home in Westchester. Dinner conversations, said his son Jack, were filled with discussions of current and historical events.
“It sparked an interest in current affairs and government,” said his son, Jack. “I got my interest in government and politics, really, through my dad.”
Mr. Kubik is survived by his wife, Barbara Kubik (nee Moravec); his children, Patricia (Clifford) Willis, Jack L. (the late Aggie) Kubik and Donna (Roger) Larson; five grandchildren; his sister, Jeanne Donars; and many nieces and nephews.
Services have been held. Memorial donations are appreciated to the Rolfe Pancreatic Cancer Foundation, 4809 N. Ravenswood Ave., Suite 326, Chicago, Illinois, 60640.