Newspapers mourn loss of Peter Elofson
JAMESTOWN, N.Y. — Peter Elofson and technology were as natural a pair as ink on paper.
For more than four decades, the Jamestown-native saw The Post-Journal and its sister papers through advancements in technology — from use of Linotype in the early days of journalism to the installation of complex computer networks capable of sending and receiving copious amounts of data and information.
From beginning to end, Elofson oversaw just about all aspects of the newsroom. As the information technology manager for The Post-Journal, Dunkirk Observer and Warren Times Observer, he made sure computers functioned properly for reporters and knew how to troubleshoot when the machine used to make press plates stopped working right before deadline.
Elofson, also known for his civic-mindedness and love of classic cars, died Thursday in Hospice of Buffalo in Cheektowaga, N.Y., following a two-year battle with Mantle cell lymphoma, his family said. He was 65.
A rare accomplishment, Elofson spent his entire 46-year career at the Jamestown newspaper. He started as a paperboy before working his way up to the mail room and later the composing department.
“He never worked anywhere else,” said his wife, Peggy Elofson. “This was the only job he ever had.”
Michael Bird, publisher of The Post-Journal, said when he started his newspaper career, Elofson was already a veteran in the industry. Bird noted Elofson was at the helm when the newspaper upgraded its computer systems on more than one occasion. It was his computer know-how — most notably with Apple and Macintosh systems — that helped bring The Post-Journal and its sister papers with Ogden Newspapers Inc. into the digital age.
“I have never worked with someone as intelligent and thorough in everything he did,” Bird said. “Pete was a serious problem-solver and made everybody’s job easier.
“Pete played a crucial role in making sure this paper and many papers in our chain kept up with new technology, from days of Linotype; using film to make plates; to today’s multi-media landscape.”
As the IT manager for three newspapers, Elofson was always on call. And when needed for a complex issue, he had a meticulous way of explaining why things ran the way they did.
“When I would ask Pete why something wasn’t done because it was surely as simple as hitting print,” Bird recalled, “he always gave that ‘Pete’ look like I was clueless and proceeded to explain to me in about a half-hour discussion on why it’s not as simple as hitting ‘Apple P.'”
John D’Agostino, publisher of the Observer in Dunkirk, noted that Elofson was a “tireless worker” who on occasion would be summoned in the early hours when a malfunction threatened to delay production of the newspaper.
“Pete was dedicated to the newspaper industry,” D’Agostino said. “He never let any of us down.”
Dave Hecei was hired with The Post-Journal in 2004 as an assistant in the IT department and worked with Elofson until the latter’s retirement in January 2015. Hecei said he got to know his eventual IT counterpart when the two would meet at a local camera shop.
“We would always talk about Apple and Macintosh computers,” said Hecei, who took over as IT manager upon Elofson’s retirement. “Pete was a force of nature — he really knew computers. He knew most of everything running at The Post-Journal, not just IT. We would often talk about all the new things in tech, but he also had lots of great stories about working at The Post-Journal, before the paper started using Macs.”
But it wasn’t just computers that Elofson was tasked with managing. He also made sure the phone and voicemail systems worked properly, and on many occasions, was the man to change a light bulb when the job needed done.
“He was a mainstay at the paper. He was the main man for just about everything,” said Brigetta Overcash, currently the executive director of the WCA Foundation and who worked with Elofson at The Post-Journal for a decade.
Beyond the walls of the newspaper, Elofson was heavily involved in the community. He served at one point as president and treasurer of the Lakewood Rotary Club and chairman of the Dale Jacobs Memorial Chili Open golf tournament.
Elofson was also a fan of classic cars, especially General Motors convertibles. Peggy Elofson said her husband loved to restore cars and show them locally and across the country.
The longtime Jamestown resident underwent a bone marrow transplant in November 2016 after his Mantle cell lymphoma diagnosis. He began showing symptoms of cancer about seven months afterward.
Bird, like many who knew Elofson, expressed condolences to his family.
“I have missed Pete as a co-worker and friend since he retired and will continue to miss my friend as life goes on,” Bird said. “My heartfelt prayers are with Pete’s family and I am truly sorry for their loss.”
Elofson is survived by his wife, Peggy; daughter, Masha; and two beloved dogs, Shelby and Max.