Irvin Stone Lieberman, 82, of Kennett Square, the former publisher of the Chester County Press and a columnist who wrote for the paper under the sobriquet “Uncle Irvin,” died Saturday, Dec. 29, of a heart ailment at Neighborhood Health Hospice in West Chester.
Starting in 1970, Mr. Lieberman made his mark as publisher of Chester County Communications, later Ad Pro Inc., a string of suburban weeklies including the Chester County Press in Oxford and the Main Line Chronicle. The chain now includes lifestyle magazines targeted at individual communities in Chester County and northern Delaware and Maryland.
Mr. Lieberman stepped down as publisher in 1993 when his sons bought Ad Pro, but he continued writing his column, which appeared on the front page of the Press. The 200-word “Uncle Irvin” column became “the newspaper’s voice, its very own barbaric yawp,” editor Steve Hoffman wrote in a Jan. 7 tribute in the Press.
Mr. Lieberman gave no quarter to anyone, Hoffman wrote – “no lawmaker, no business leader, no school superintendent, no officer of the law, and especially those who luxuriate in the false grandiosity of a title.” He saw them as fair game for criticism, and urged his writers to follow his lead.
Wife Judy Hartle Lieberman said the model for her husband’s brand of journalism was Ben Kramer, who wrote as “Uncle Ben” in the Main Line Times and the Main Line Chronicle for many years. Kramer’s writing was greeted with “both accolades and brickbats,” said Kramer’s 1980 obituary in the Main Line Times.
In his final column, published Jan. 7, Mr. Lieberman reflected on his career. “My career in newspapering was a ‘buzz,’ giving me both satisfaction of accomplishment, but also financial success,” he wrote. “The thorn in my side has been the massive deterioration of America the Beautiful, and the gross dishonesty of our elected and appointed officials. I no longer trust any of them.”
Born in Philadelphia to Louis and Minerva Buchecker Lieberman, he graduated from Lower Merion High School and the University of Pennsylvania.
Mr. Lieberman started his career in Philadelphia as a trade association manager. He became active in the Chester County Republican Party and was so fascinated with politics that he got himself appointed to work in Harrisburg for the House Republican caucus. In 1969, he worked as an aide to State Sen. John Stauffer, a Chester County Republican.
While working for the caucus, he saw the sometimes unseemly convergence of politics and governance and grew critical of elected officials, said Mr. Lieberman’s son Randall, now publisher of the Press.
“I think it was this hands-on, inside view of politics, plus seeing for himself the inefficiency and corruption that went with it,” that made him suspicious of government, his son said. “He did not like what he saw.
“He went on a crusade for the rest of his life to hunt down political injustice. Community newspapers, journalism, and the First Amendment were his weapons of choice. He believed in holding all officials on the public payroll accountable for their actions.”
In one column, he chastised East Marlboro Township police for their refusal to join with the other forces in Chester County to create efficiency. In response, “the supervisors went nuts,” his wife said.
He didn’t hesitate to call an elected official “dumb” or “a lemon.” “He got that from Uncle Ben,” his wife said.
When not taking aim at public officials, Mr. Lieberman enjoyed boating and fishing in Henlopen Acres, Del., with his family. He relished discussing politics and Philadelphia sports teams, and loved watching Eagles games.
In addition to his wife of 60 years and his son, he is survived by another son, Andrew; four grandchildren; and a great-grandchild.
A visitation starting at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 16, will be followed by an 11 a.m. celebration of life at Bethany Presbyterian Church, 316 Kennett Pike, Kennett Square. Burial is private.