By JOE SEVERINO
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Chris Stadelman, the former chief of staff for Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and Charleston Daily Mail managing editor, died Thursday night after a lengthy battle with colorectal cancer.
Stadelman, 48, was diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 2014. This was his second bout with cancer, having already beat Hodgkin’s lymphoma earlier in life.
A 1992 graduate of Marshall University and a Yeager Scholar, Stadelman worked in the Kanawha Valley for nearly a decade at the Daily Mail, climbing the ladder all the way up to managing editor in his time. He and his wife, Kelly, then took a chance in 2004 and bought the Parsons Advocate, a small newspaper in Tucker County, which they ran until 2011. The couple bought an Elkins public relations firm in 2010, which later merged in 2012 with The Manahan Group in Charleston.
Stadelman served as spokesman on Tomblin’s campaigns in 2011 and 2012. He was hired on as Tomblin’s communications director in 2014, eventually becoming his chief of staff.
Tomblin commended Stadelman as a hard worker, but even a better person.
“He rarely ever missed a day’s work and came to work every day with a smile on his face,” Tomblin said. “It had to be tough for him, but that’s just the way Chris was. West Virginia’s lost a great individual.”
George Manahan, CEO of The Manahan Group, where Stadelman once served as vice president of public relations, was a close friend of Stadelman’s for more than 20 years. Manahan had nothing but praise for his late friend.
“Chris was the smartest, most intelligent, loving person I’ve ever met,” Manahan said. “I can’t think of anyone who has impacted more lives, in his profession and in West Virginia, than Chris Stadelman. He will be felt for many, many years to come.”
Manahan said a woman giving a speech at an event Friday in Charles Town told him she knew Stadelman and that he had saved her life by insisting she get a colonoscopy. The test determined she did have cancer, but that it was early enough to treat. She didn’t know Stadelman had died Thursday.
Stadelman was vocal about early colorectal screenings. He was the honorary Charleston Area Medical Center’s Run For Your Life 5-mile run/2.5-mile walk chairman in 2015. He told the Daily Mail in 2015, “I’m going to run the disease. I am not going to let it run me. I’ve always been a little stubborn.”
He wrote an essay for the event recently where he discussed his treatment at CAMC and gave insight on his life post diagnosis.
“Kelly and I have checked off several ‘bucket list’ items, including a trip to the British Open and six weeks at Spring Training in Florida. We continue to cherish our time together more than ever,” Stadelman wrote.
“When the time comes, it’s my goal to also die on my own terms. I want to maintain control of what I can, even as the number of those things shrinks.
“I also hope that by spreading the word about screenings and early detection of colorectal cancer — a situation that makes it easily treatable — I can keep others from going down a path similar to mine and to Jody’s,” he wrote, referencing his friend and former Daily Mail co-worker Jody Jividen, who died in 2002 at age 44, also of colorectal cancer.
While working as a business reporter for the Daily Mail, Stadelman often contacted current Daily Mail opinion page editor Kelly Merritt, who was a spokesman for a gas company. Merritt said the two developed a great relationship.
“In his presence, you felt like you were his best friend and the most worthy and most interesting person in the world,” Merritt said. “You knew he was that way to everybody.
“If everybody could live their life like Chris Stadelman did, it’d be a much better and stronger world. I never heard him say a negative thing about anyone.”
Joey Garcia worked with Stadelman while he was with Tomblin. Garcia praised him for his positive outlook on life, even though life had dealt him an unfair hand.
“The way he fought cancer and did his job, didn’t let anybody know it was affecting him, and did it with a smile on his face, every day,” Garcia said. “He never let anyone feel sorry for him.”
A relatively unknown part of Stadelman’s life also involved shelter dogs. Charlie Lorensen, who was Tomblin’s chief of staff while Stadelman was communications director, said Stadelman loved shelter dogs and worked very hard to get them adopted.
Stadelman was inducted to the Marshall University School of Journalism Hall of Fame last year.
The Society of Yeager Scholars said Friday that the Stadelmans this month endowed the Stadelman Family Scholarship for the Society of Yeager Scholars.
Funeral arrangements were incomplete Friday.
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