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Daily Journal
     June 14, 2021      #24-165 KDJ
Mario Sebastiani

Mario Sebastiani passes away 

By Jeff Bonty

Mario Sebastiani lived the American dream.

He worked his way up from a paperboy for one of the precursors of the Daily Journal to its general manager/vice president of operations.

Just as amazing, he worked for this family-owned business for 65 years, retiring in 2009. At 93, Sebastiani passed away on June 7 in the home he shared for many years with his late wife, Betty, and surrounded by the family he doted over.

“He was wonderful as a boss and a friend,'' retired Daily Journal employee Brenda Montgomery remembered.

“I was executive secretary when he became general manager. It didn’t take long before he would be more than a boss, but a true friend of me and my family. He was genuine. He will be sorely missed and fondly membered.”

At the age of 12 or 13, Sebastiani worked as a paperboy for the Kankakee Republican. At age 16, he officially began employment with the newspaper. His first responsibilities were the jobs in the pressroom no one else wanted to do. Those duties included wiping down the presses.

When his older brother, Louie, was inducted into the U.S. Navy during World War II, Mario took his place in circulation. When Louie came home, Mario returned to the pressroom and soon became a pressman.

“He had an absolute love of the paper and of the job,'' retired Managing Editor Phil Angelo said. “For Mario, it was never about the money or the prestige. It was about the central idea of doing it the right way every day. He personified the old saying of ‘never working a day in your life, if you love what you do.'

"He remained devoted to the paper for many years past the age when others would have retired," he said. 

Away from work, Sebastiani spent time with his wife, Betty, and together they attended many events involving their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. If you ran into 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 Publisher Rob Small said Sebastiani will be greatly missed.

“He was a legend in his own time, which was a long time, spanning six decades at the Daily Journal,” Small said. “He and his press crew won award after award for nationwide excellence in printing USA Today. He was also famous for never taking a sick day, seemingly for decades at a time. Later, as general manager, he helped lead The Journal in its quest to serve the community well.”

Whether it was printing the Daily Journal, USA Today or the many other publications the company produced, Sebastiani took great pride in the press operation for all. It was a press that earned the members of the pressroom numerous national accolades.

With each acknowledgement, Sebastiani made it clear it came as a result of the “family” that daily worked its magic.

“It’s hard to imagine the Daily Journal without Mario Sebastiani,” said Tom Small, executive vice president for the Journal. “He was a fundamental part of the organization. He had a great sense of humor and a good business sense. He will be greatly missed.”

Network operations director for the Journal, Wade Lebeau said “Mario was a one-of-a-kind leader who always drove positivity in every aspect of leadership; he was also a great friend.

“The newspaper industry recognized Mario’s knowledge. At every trade show, the vendors would approach Mario to ask and seek advice, especially those vendors in the press, ink and paper businesses. Mario was a true newspaper figure that will always be remembered.”

With as much care as he maintained the Journal press, Sebastiani poured effort into the garden and fruit trees at his home. Every summer, a large supply of fruits and vegetables found their way to friends, family, co-workers and acquaintances.

"Seeing his car pull into our driveway always meant fresh pears, tomatoes, and other goodies from his garden," recalled former Journal General Manager Ken Munjoy. “Mario was one of the finest people I have had the opportunity to know.

“At work, he was caring and compassionate while also being professional and demanding high standards," he said, adding that Sebastiani also had an uncanny ability to win prizes in random drawings. "[My wife] Sheila called him her 'Lucky Charm.' We will miss Mario.”

Sebastiani served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War. Because of his printing experience, he was stationed in Tokyo, Japan. Each day he would receive aerial photographs of the battle front and print maps for the field command that showed battle lines and troop placements. His military service ended in 1954.

Surviving are his daughters, Gina (Michael) Pullen and Linda (Jim) Scanlon; 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 Monday, June 14, at Kankakee First Church of the Nazarene, 1000 N. Entrance Ave., Kankakee. There will be a short visitation from 10 to 10:30 a.m. followed by a service at 10:30 a.m. Burial will be in Kankakee Memorial Gardens Cemetery in Aroma Township.

Jeff Bonty is a reporter for The Daily Journal. He can be reached at jbonty@daily-journal.com and 815-937-3366.

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