Mike Stater, contributing writer for the Salem Times-Register, dies

By Patrick Smith

patricksmith@ourvalley.org

The Salem Times-Register and the Roanoke Valley lost a valued news reporter and dear friend when Mike Stater passed away March 9.

Stater, who had been a contributing writer for the Salem Times-Register since October 2013, had been battling a heart condition and had been hospitalized since Feb. 26, according to his wife Linda. For the Salem newspaper, the 66-year-old Stater was most recognized for his coverage of the Salem School Board and public safety news, but was also willing to go above and beyond his freelancer role, even serving as interim editor of the newspaper for three weeks in May 2014.

Before spending part of his “retirement” as a writer for the Salem Times-Register, Stater held a handful of other media and public relations positions. However, he began and ended his media career working in print media.

A native of Welch, W.Va., and a graduate of Bluefield State College, Stater served as assistant city editor for the Charleston Daily Mail in Charleston, W.Va., and as editor of the Bluefield Daily Telegraph.

"Mike was a newspaperman's newsman. Even though he had been on the other side as a public relations spokesman most recently, the veteran of newspapers in West Virginia said his first love remained newspapers,” said retired Salem Times-Register editor Meg Hibbert. “I was privileged to call him a friend, and the Salem Times-Register was blessed to have him return to that love.”

Stater also tried his hand at television and broadcast media for a time, and, after moving to the Roanoke Valley, became the first public information officer (PIO) for the Virginia State Police in the Salem and Wytheville divisions in October 2000. He held that position until April 2003.

Captain Richard A. Denney, division commander at the Salem VSP Division VI Headquarters, said that Stater had a “real love” for the VSP, and said that his father, who was a police officer in West Virginia, likely influenced that passion.

Denney pointed out that one of Stater’s most high profile assignments with the VSP came after a shooting at the Appalachian School of Law in Grundy in 2002, when three people were killed and three others wounded. He said Stater responded from the Salem office and was on the scene handling media inquiries as the primary state police spokesman.

“Mike handled this event as he handled all assignments – whether large or small, Mike gave it his best and was a true professional until the end,” he said. “Those of us in the state police family who worked with Mike will truly miss one of our own.”

After his tenure with the VSP, Stater stayed in the public relations field, using his communications skills while working for the Virginia Department of Health and for the City of Salem.

“When Mike Stater was with the city, he worked exceedingly hard to publicize events at the civic center, especially the Salem Fair,” said Salem Director of Tourism Carey Harveycutter. “We had the largest media presence ever when he suggested a news conference format with some of the performers. Earlier, Mike was my radio sales rep and always worked to get the most economical and effective deal for his clients.”

Salem Planning and Economic Development Director Melinda Payne added that Stater assisted in luring Lowe’s and Chick-fil-A to Salem. “I will remember him as a pleasant man who enjoyed life,” she said.

After working as PIO for the city, Stater moved to North Carolina to work in the Department of Corrections. He married his wife Linda in 2008, and returned to the Roanoke Valley following his retirement.

Stater was well received when he returned to his first love of print journalism as a contributing writer to the Salem Times-Register.

“Mike Stater’s effusively positive nature was encouraging to all who encountered him and his optimism reflected an inner joy,” said Salem School Division Superintendent Dr. Alan Seibert. “As a reporter, I respected and admired his commitment to accuracy, not just of word, but of context and meaning. Mr. Stater regularly followed up before publishing something because he was committed to quoting people accurately and providing objective clarity for his readers.”

According to his obituary, Mike Stater was preceded in death by his parents, John Stater and Dorothy Phipps Stater Sloane. Survivors include his wife Linda; daughter Jamie Wampler; grandson Logan Wampler; sister Pat Britton and husband John; and many other family members and friends.

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