By Debra J. Groom
People around Oswego County are pouring onto social media leaving tributes for Vincent R. Caravan, former publisher and owner of The Valley News.
Caravan, 91, died Sunday at his Fulton home. By Sunday night, photos were posted on Facebook of old times at The Valley News and former employees and others were writing about the man they called “kind of a colorful character” and “consummate gentleman publisher.”
Caravan came to Fulton in 1950 after buying a small printing company. One could say he had ink in his veins, as he had been raised in the business – his father, Italian immigrant Stephen Caravan ran a commercial printing company in Pottsville, Pa.
In the late 1950s, he was hired by Oswego Valley News owners Colson and Beatrice Carr and became the paper’s managing editor in 1958. He prided himself on putting out a paper filled to the brim with local news – there wasn’t a municipal meeting or local sporting event that didn’t get covered and written about.
“Vince built it into the paper it is now,” said Terry Bennett, public relations officer with Oswego County Emergency Management and former associate and managing editor at The Valley News.
What made him fit so well with The Valley News was his knowledge of the community, those who knew him said Monday. It seems he was involved in everything and knew almost everybody, so he always had story ideas to pass on to his reporters and editors.
“He went to the post office and would come back with tips to check on,” Bennett said. “He would point us in the direction of different places for news. He had a knowledge and understanding of every facet of the business.”
By 1972, Caravan bought the paper and changed its name to The Valley News to affirm its Fulton identity. Caravan expanded the The Valley News from a weekly newspaper to a twice a week paper. The paper also began winning awards from the New York Press Association by the end of the 1970s, becoming one of the leading community newspapers in the region.
“Vince was a true newspaperman,” said Carol Thompson, who was a reporter for The Valley News for more than 20 years. “He cared deeply about the Fulton community and the Oswego County community.”
Thompson said while Caravan owned the paper and was publisher, he made the atmosphere more like a family than a workplace.
“We worked with Vince, he never made us feel like we worked for Vince,” Thompson said. “He was a true mentor. He cared about making us the best we could be.”
She said when her stories won awards, Caravan was just as excited and proud as she was.
“When I broke the New York Chocolate story and the money laundering scheme, he was very proud and very excited. But he was so worried we’d get scooped on it,” Thompson said. “We would sit in his office and watch the 5 o’clock news on TV to see if any of the stations had the story. He was quite relieved when they didn’t.”
If people didn’t know Caravan personally, they might have thought they did through his column called “Vince the Caravan.” He would write about all types of issues, concerns, happenings and people in the Fulton area, bringing people together over the common bonds of community.
Outside of the newspaper, he was known as a sports fan and “liked to go to a friend’s house to watch games, like the World Series,” said his old friend Bob Green. He also liked his dark beer.
“We had a lunch club, an unofficial club with an unofficial president and unofficial minutes,” Thompson said chuckling. “We would travel all over the county to different restaurants.”
But at one eatery, Caravan ordered his usual dark beer and found the establishment didn’t have it to serve. He wanted to leave.
“We said ‘Vince, we can’t all get up and leave just because they don’t have dark beer,’” Thompson said. “So from then on, I had to call the restaurants ahead of time to be sure they had dark beer.”
Caravan was a World War II veteran, having served in the Army in Europe. Last year, he and Green took one of the Honor Flights to Washington, D.C., which fly WWII veterans to the nation’s capital to see the World War II monument and other monuments.
“He really liked that,” Green said. “But what was more momentous was when we came back to Rochester (airport), the reception we got. Service people in uniform were lined up on both sides saluting us.”
Caravan also was a charter member of the Oswego County Press Club and “was always supportive of everything having to do with the press club,” Bennett said.
Stories of Caravan were plentiful this week as news of his death spread through Fulton. It seems everyone has a “Vince” story.
“I worked for Vince for 30 years. He was a great boss,” said Carolyn Eaton, office manager at The Valley News. “ He tried to treat everyone fairly and with respect. To this day, customers come in and share little anecdotes about Vince. He was an icon in the community and will be greatly missed by many.”