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Published: Saturday, 5/24/2014 - Updated: 1 year ago

James Kerney Kuser; 1930-2014: Ex-owner of Napoleon paper was civic-minded

Kuser Kuser

NAPOLEON — James Kerney Kuser, a former owner, publisher, and editor of the Northwest Signal newspaper, died Tuesday in his Naples, Fla., home. He was 83.

He had lung cancer, said his son Jamie, who was general manager and editor of the newspaper in 2003, when the Kuser family sold it to the Cullis family, owners of the Bryan Times. Afterward, Mr. Kuser and his wife, Helen, made Naples their full-time home.

“I could always go to my father and say, ‘What do you think if we tried this?’ and he could say, ‘We tried that 20 years ago or 10 years ago.’ He was my sounding board,” said his son, now publisher of two monthly magazines in Florida.

“He had a great business sense, a very mathematical mind,” his son said. “He looked at the big picture and yet knew how to make ends meet.”

Mr. Kuser’s oldest son, John, was the paper’s circulation manager.

After Mr. Kuser was named 1986 Napoleon Citizen of the Year, venerable Blade columnist Don Wolfe wrote: “Mr. Kuser is not the type of executive who sits in a swivel chair at a desk; he is the type who spends much time, notebook in hand, roaming the business and industrial circles in the Henry County city.”

Mr. Kuser was a former president and board member of the chamber of commerce and the Rotary Club. He was among the founders of the local United Way, and he was charter president of the Henry County Airport Authority.

He also was a former treasurer and director of the Henry County chapter of the American Red Cross.

He was born Oct. 18, 1930, to Mary Kerney Kuser and R. George Kuser in Lawrenceville, N.J. His mother and the Kerney family owned the Trenton Times.

He was a 1949 graduate of the Lawrenceville School and a 1953 graduate of the University of Virginia. He studied theater and lighting design and received a master of fine arts degree in 1959 from Yale University.

Years later, he was lighting designer of the Maumee Valley Civic Theater in Napoleon and served as its president.

Mr. Kuser was a former general manager of a Trenton radio station and had worked on the business side of the Courier Post in Camden, N.J. He bought the Napoleon paper in 1966, learning of the opportunity from his brother, George, who owned the Troy (Ohio) Daily News.

“He was down to earth, like a small-town guy, once he hit here,” said Phil Cochran, his friend and dentist. “He fit in. He ran the newspaper very much like it was run by local people here. The news was our local news.”

Mr. Kuser was an Army veteran and served in Germany during the Korean War.

Surviving are his wife, Helen Kuser, whom he married Oct. 9, 1954; sons, John and Jamie Kuser; daughter, Mary Kuser Thomas; sister, Sally Lane; seven grandchildren; four step-grandchildren; two great-grandchildren, and eight step-great-grandchildren.

Memorial services are scheduled for 11 a.m. May 31 in St. Agnes Church, Naples, Fla. Arrangements are being handled by Shikany's Bonita Funeral Home, Bonita Springs, Fla.

The family suggests tributes to the Wounded Warrior Project Inc., the American Red Cross, or a charity of the donor’s choice.

Contact Mark Zaborney at: mzaborney@theblade.com or 419-724-6182.

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