If you are one of those subscribers of more than a decade, who remembers the “good old days” of the Daily News-Sun, you’re most likely thinking of Maryanne Leyshon’s Daily News-Sun.
For more than two decades, make no mistake, this was Maryanne’s Daily News-Sun — whether she was the top line editor or not. And the Sun Cities were better for it.
In the last 12 of those years before her retirement in June 2010, I had the pleasure of calling Maryanne my mentor and later, my friend. And I watched her serve as the heartbeat of our newsroom and ambassador of our papers in the Sun Cities.
Maryanne, who lived in Sun City with her husband, Don, throughout her retirement, died Sept. 4. Cancer took her far too young, months short of her 73rd birthday. Thankfully, she was able to battle through four forms of the disease since 2005 and visit her family in Albuquerque regularly.
Don Leyshon is the man we have to thank for bringing Maryanne to the West Valley. She was the enterprise editor and modern living editor of her hometown daily The Sharon Herald and deeply involved in the social fabric of this community near Pittsburgh.
Don was transferred to Sun City in 1989 and Maryanne earned the role of Daily News-Sun editor a couple months later. They married in October 1989 and headed west.
The paper and the business were very different in those days. As of the mid-1990s the Daily News-Sun boasted more than 20,000 subscribers and was starting to expand operations with weekly papers in North Glendale/Peoria and Surprise.
I arrived in the fall of 1998 full of college accolades and quickly received an education in how professional journalists work and what a community paper is.
The staff was impressive but within weeks it was clear Maryanne (Mal as we all called her) was the focal point. She’d juggle multiple publications, designing one while giving a first edit for the next day’s storing and budgeting copy for a special section. Mal seemed to be in perpetual motion — and when she left the office during the work week it was usually for a community-oriented board meeting or social event.
A new company purchased the Daily News-Sun that summer and foolishly — as if it were running a sports team and not a newspaper — tried to sweep out Mal and the rest of the leadership team to replace with “their guys.” Keep in mind, this occurred days after the Associated Press managing editors announced the Daily News-Sun won the General Excellence award as the top non-metro daily paper in the state.
Thankfully that did not come to pass. Mal was now the editor and settled in alongside new executive editor Dan McCarthy. While that pairing made for some endearing “Odd Couple” moments, the duo worked well together.
During those years, the DNS was an afternoon paper which resulted in an unusual work cycle. Rather than building to a nightly finished product, our work day started with a morning deadline then flipped to planning the next paper.
While other newspapers scrambled to put together a special edition the morning of 9/11, the tragedy occurred in the middle of our deadline cycle. Mal called us all in that morning and worked with the team on a front page concept while the horrors of that morning unfolded.
As our deadline approached, all four planes had crashed and a timeline and narrative of that day’s grim reality were being formed. But not all flights were grounded or accounted for as we published. The cover reflected this, with a picture of the Sears Tower in Chicago as a possible target thus far left unscathed.
In truth, though, Mal had no daily work cycle. In her 21 years at the DNS she usually woke up early, stayed until well into the afternoon and came back at night to make sure the next paper was the best one we could put together.
And she was remarkably chipper for someone whose work weeks averaged 60-70 hours, not to mention all the boards she was on and meetings she attended as the paper’s ambassador ... and the trips to Chico’s.
Maryanne Leyshon was the chairman of the Sun Health Foundation board of trustees, president of the Symphony of the West Valley, president of the Arizona Associated Press Managing Editors Association and board member for the Sun City Ambassadors and Sun City First Amendment Coalition.
Mal also worked closely with Interfaith Community Care and in her final months with the paper led the production of a special section announcing the group’s name change — to Benevilla.
She knew the Sun Cities, its history and its residents like an encyclopedia, functioning as a one-woman archive when print products slowly made the transition from storage in binders to online.
Yet with so many big things on her plate, Mal had a knack for genuine interpersonal communication and reveled in trading family stories with co-workers. She’d host the staff for a huge breakfast spread every year and contribute top-notch pasta to our potlucks.
For years I thought she would not be able to let go. But she did, and I will never forget her retirement speech about growing up watching the presses run on the Sharon Herald, knowing what she wanted to do and realizing her dream in a 45-year career.
Maryanne Leyshon spent her near-decade in retirement with the only things she loved more than the Daily News-Sun and the Sun Cities she grew to call home — her husband, her children and grandchildren.
All the best to them in this difficult time, but there are many special memories everyone that knew her will have to share.