The Brooks newspaper group was saddened to hear last weekend that our former publisher, Kevin Lally, died at age 53.

Most of you probably did not know Kevin personally, but if you read any of our newspapers in the last 37 years, you were privy to his handiwork. He left the company two years ago, yet his influence still lives on in those of us who worked with him.

Kevin ran these papers with business sense and authority, mixed with a large dose of humor and fun. During our weekly editorial meetings, we got to the important stuff, but not without a funny anecdote or a tidbit of gossip. He was a pleasure to work with.

I worked with Kevin for three years. After serving as managing editor of the Westport News for three years, he agreed that it was time for me to move up, and he promoted me to editor of the Darien News. It was a compliment, taking into account his vast experience with the Darien community.

Carol Wilder-Tamme, long-time president and CEO of the Darien Chamber of Commerce, had a special relationship with Kevin up until the day he died.

"Kevin Lally was president of the board of the Darien Chamber when I joined the staff in 2004," she wrote in an e-mail to me this week. "He introduced me to friends and colleagues he had worked or volunteered with from Greenwich up to Fairfield. It seemed like he knew everyone! Kevin was gregarious, hardworking, energetic and always great fun to be around. He will be missed in the business community and as a great friend."

His knowledge extended beyond Darien and Westport, where he lived. He was intimately acquainted with all of the Brooks communities. Whether it was a zoning issue in Westport or a feature story in Norwalk, for example, Kevin knew the facts and the main players -- often getting us access to people or information that otherwise would have been unavailable.

In fact, he epitomized "hyper-local" before it became regular newspaper jargon.

All this attention to local news, combined with his oversight of advertising and ability to do hands-on production work left him with very little time -- understandably. So daily communication wasn't the easiest. We used to joke that if you sent Kevin an e-mail with five questions, you'd usually get a one-word yes or no answer -- it was up to you to decide which of your questions matched that answer. Nevertheless, we got the information we needed eventually.

The other rare quality that Kevin possessed, especially considering that his start was in advertising, was that he understood the role of editorial content versus advertising. He didn't ask us to compromise our standards for the sake of selling ads. It sounds like a simple concept, but in mainstream media, that line has become increasingly blurred.

After Kevin left the company, I saw him a handful of times, and each time was surprised to see that he still followed our coverage of town issues. He was always glad to catch up with me, and I him.

He was talented and he knew this business inside out. More importantly, he knew what you wanted to read and what you wanted to know. It's a shame that those rare qualities are now gone forever.

Perhaps even more significant was Kevin's immense support of charitable organizations. He was so generous to so many people and organizations in Fairfield County. There are few groups in this area that can claim that Kevin Lally never helped them. This community owes a huge debt of gratitude to Kevin and his ideals.

Will Rowlands, former editor of the Westport News -- and my former boss -- knew Kevin for many years. It was probably because of Will's relationship with Kevin that I was able to get to know Kevin as well as I did.

"Kevin was my boss for a few years but he was also a family friend. He spent most of his life at the Westport News and Brooks Community Newspapers, but he was about more than newspapering. Kevin served on the boards of a number of chambers of commerce in coastal Fairfield County and did a great deal of charity work. He knew our towns, the businesses and the people like no one else," Rowlands wrote in an e-mail.

This opinion was shared by many. Woody Klein, a columnist and a former editor of the Westport News who worked for Lally, said in a statement: "I am deeply saddened by Kevin's passing. I knew him since he was a college student and eventually worked for him when he was publisher of Brooks Community Newspapers. There were few people as community-minded as Kevin. I nominated him for a Faces of Achievement Award and he won it in recent years. He was an outstanding newspaperman, a good friend to many of us, and a leading figure in our town. His dedication to Westport was well-known. He will be missed by many. My heart goes out to his family."

Here at the paper, we, too, would like to express to Kevin's family our heartfelt appreciation of the work he did for this community. We hope that the community appreciates him in the same way.