Conover, originally from California, worked 30 years in the newspaper business, most recently returning to North Carolina after working in five other states.
The 61-year-old Conover had been in the newspaper business since 1991, when he began writing for the Los Angeles Times while he was still in college.
He also worked for The Paducah Sun in Paducah, Ky., The News Herald in Morganton, for Gatehouse Media managing news content for five daily newspapers and seven associated weeklies and The Daily Herald in Roanoke Rapids, as well as doing freelance writing, editing and research online for two years.
Conover lived and worked at newspapers in six states during his 30-year career.
David Crawley, former publisher of The News Herald in Morganton, worked with Conover when he was editor of the newspaper from 2000 to 2007. The two remained friends during the past 20 years.
“Duke was first and foremost a very credible newspaper man,” Crawley said. “He believed in the institution of journalism. That was his calling, and that was his mission.
“In the day and age we worked together, lots of people were climbing the career ladder and doing what they could to move up in the newspaper business, and that was never Duke Conover. Duke Conover was genuinely interested in reporting the truth and the 100% transparency of our community.”
Crawley said Conover not only improved The News Herald, but also started about a dozen spinoff publications in the paper, including a women’s magazine dealing with issues of the day for the modern women of his community and a faith-based magazine with stories of real people in the community.
“He was phenomenal at coming up with creative ways to expand the newspaper,” Crawley said.
“As a friend and a buddy, Duke and I went fishing a couple of times together and hung out after hours, just sitting around talking about lots of things. Even up until a few months ago, he and I talked on the phone a lot.”
Crawley said Conover was one of a kind.
“My heart aches because he’s not with us anymore,” he said.
Conover worked at The Paducah Sun, from 2007 to 2014, as executive editor.
Matt Jones, general manager at The Paducah Sun, said Conover’s focus was to ensure readers were getting stories that mattered.
“I truly enjoyed working with Duke as we always found a way to push each other to be better,” Jones said. “He was always concerned with making sure all of our newspapers were successful.”
Jones also knew Conover as a family man who loved his wife and children.
“Duke was a genuine man with a big heart, and everyone knew of his passion for journalism within the newspaper industry,” Jones said. “For anyone that knows Duke, they know he was a family man who loved his wife, children and the Carolina Panthers.”
Jones said Conover left two quotes on his Facebook page, which he talked about frequently: “First, be a great newspaper,” by Fred Paxton, and, “I am not the editor of a newspaper and shall always try to do right and be good so that God will not make me one,” by Mark Twain.
Conover grew up north of Los Angeles in Palmdale, Calif., and served in the United States Navy.
He was married to the late Cathy Conover, whose father served as pastor of Madison Avenue Baptist Church in Goldsboro in the 1970s.
He is survived by two children, Aaron Patrick Conover and Linda-Catherine Marie Conover.
Funeral arrangements are pending.