Mario Sebastiani lived the American dream.
He rose through the ranks from a newspaper delivery man for one of the forerunners of The Daily Journal to its Managing Director / VP of Operations.
Equally incredible, he worked for this family business for 65 years, before retiring in 2009. At 93, Sebastiani died on June 7 in the house he shared for many years with his late wife, Betty, and surrounded by the family he loved.
“He was wonderful as a boss and a friend,” recalls Brenda Montgomery, retired Daily Journal employee.
“I was executive secretary when he became general manager. It wasn’t long before he was just a boss, but a true friend to me and my family. He was genuine. He will be sadly missed and will be a loving member.
At the age of 12 or 13, Sebastiani worked as a newspaper delivery boy for the Kankakee Republican. At 16, he officially started working for the newspaper. His first responsibilities were the jobs in the pressroom that no one else wanted to do. These tasks included wiping down the presses.
When his older brother, Louie, was inducted into the US Navy during World War II, Mario took his place in circulation. When Louie got home, Mario returned to the press room and quickly became a press man.
“He had an absolute love for the newspaper and the job,” said retired editor-in-chief Phil Angelo. “For Mario, it was never a question of money or prestige. It was the central idea to do it right every day. He personified the old adage that “never work a day in your life, if you like what you do”.
“He remained devoted to the newspaper for many years beyond the age when others would have retired,” he said.
Outside of work, Sebastiani spent time with his wife, Betty, and together they attended many events involving their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. If you met him at sporting events, he always had a bag of popcorn and found time to strike up a conversation about local sports, events, and your family.
Daily Journal editor Rob Small said Sebastiani will be sorely missed.
“He was a legend in his time, which spanned six decades for the Daily Journal,” Small said. “He and his press team have won award after award for nationwide excellence in USA Today printing. He was also famous for never having taken sick leave, apparently for decades at a time. Later, as CEO, he helped lead the Journal in its quest to serve the community well.
Whether printing the Daily Journal, USA Today or the many other publications produced by the company, Sebastiani took great pride in how the press worked for everyone. It is a press which has won the members of the press room numerous national accolades.
With each recognition Sebastiani made it clear that it was the result of the “family” working their magic daily.
“It’s hard to imagine the Daily Journal without Mario Sebastiani,” said Tom Small, Executive Vice President of the Journal. “He was a fundamental part of the organization. He had a great sense of humor and good business sense. He will be sorely missed.
Network Operations Director for the Journal, Wade Lebeau, said, “Mario was a unique leader who has always led to positivity in all aspects of leadership; he was also a great friend.
“The newspaper industry recognized Mario’s knowledge. At every trade show, salespeople approached Mario to ask and ask for advice, especially salespeople from newspaper, ink and paper businesses. Mario was a true newspaper figure who will always be remembered. “
With as much care as he maintained the Journal press, Sebastiani devoted his efforts to the garden and the fruit trees of his house. Every summer, a large quantity of fruits and vegetables was found among friends, family, colleagues and acquaintances.
“Seeing his car come into our driveway always meant fresh pears, tomatoes and other goodies from his garden,” recalls the Journal’s former managing director Ken Munjoy. “Mario was one of the best people I had the opportunity to know.
“At work he was caring and compassionate while still being professional and demanding high standards,” he said, adding that Sebastiani also had an uncanny ability to win prizes in raffles. “[My wife] Sheila called him her “lucky charm”. Mario will be missed.
Sebastiani served in the United States Army during the Korean War. Due to his background in printing, he was stationed in Tokyo, Japan. Every day he received aerial photographs of the battle front and printed maps for the field command that showed the battle lines and the locations of the troops. His military service ended in 1954.
His daughters, Gina (Michael) Pullen and Linda (Jim) Scanlon, survive; grandchildren, Mary (Mitch) Holmgren, Melissa (Peter) Chung, Brad Johnson, Stephanie (Mark) Alessi and Sarah (Kelly) Krippel; step-grandchildren, Jenna Kostelicz and Jamie Panici and their families; great-grandchildren, Brady and Ella Chung, Evan and Leah Alessi and Kyle Holmgren; sisters-in-law, Dorothy and Elinor Bright; and caregiver, D’Angelo Hunter.
A time of remembrance will be held in his honor on Monday, June 14, at Kankakee First Church of the Nazarene, 1000 N. Entrance Ave., Kankakee. There will be a short visit from 10 am to 10:30 am followed by a service at 10:30 am Interment will be at Kankakee Memorial Gardens in Aroma Township.