ASHTABULA — Matt Hutton, editor of the Ashtabula Star Beacon for more than four years, died Sunday evening of a heart attack, according to his fiancée Nicole Weigand of Ashtabula. He was 36 years old.
Hutton and Weigand were visiting the home of her parents when she said he complained of chest pains. They prepared to take him to the hospital when Hutton collapsed as they were getting into the car, she said.
Medical personnel who responded to scene were unable to revive him. Hutton and Weigand were engaged to be married in May of next year.
A native of the Cleveland area, Hutton graduated from St. Edward High School in Lakewood and Ohio University. He joined the Star Beacon as editor of the newspaper on Oct. 20, 2014. His hallmark was strong community coverage.
Ashtabula resident Evelyn Schaeffer, a reader member of the Star Beacon Editorial Board, said she was impressed with Hutton's commitment to journalism and the way he handled his job.
"I was just so honored to work with Matt,” she said. “I was so impressed with his writing ability...his ethics and his sensitivities to things that were maybe touchy, but important to the community."
Ashtabula City Manager Jim Timonere participated last year with Hutton in Leadership Ashtabula, an organization that encourages residents to improve the quality of local life by engaging in civic-minded programs.
"He’s always been extremely fair in reporting stories about our city and events in our area," said Timonere. "I always enjoyed my interviews with him and personal conversations. He is going to be sorely missed by many people."
Bill Ketter, senior vice president of news at CNHI, the Star Beacon’s parent company, said Hutton “had consistent, effective determination to serve the Ashtabula market with a quality local newspaper. His resolve to produce meaningful and fair coverage, day after day, was vitally important to the community.”
Ketter added: “All of us in CNHI were taken aback by his unexpected death. His family, his fiancée, his friends and his colleagues have our deepest sympathy at this very sad time.”
Chip Minemyer, CNHI regional editor for Pennsylvania, Ohio and Maryland, served as Hutton's mentor when he first joined the Star Beacon.
"Like everyone, I was stunned to hear of Matt's passing, and my thoughts go out to his family and his news team,” said Minemyer. “This is an enormous loss for The Star Beacon and the Ashtabula area. Matt was a smart, dedicated editor who cared deeply about his staff and coverage of the northeast Ohio region. This is a very difficult time for all of us who knew him well."
Justin Dennis, a former Star Beacon reporter, praised Hutton's work ethic.
"As a young reporter, there was no one better to learn from than Matt Hutton, as he pushed to make your work better every single day," he said. "In a fast-paced, competitive business where you're only as good as your last story, Matt always remembered his writers were, first and foremost humans, and often encouraged or enabled them to put life before work."
Hutton began his newspaper career as a reporter in Norwalk, Ohio, and Galesburg, Illinois. He later served as an editor at newspapers in Illinois and Indiana before joining the Star Beacon.