He was 66.
Rust Communications is the parent company for The Brazil Times, The Banner-Graphic, and the Greene County Daily World.
Lage was widely known in the newspaper industry. He was also very active in the community.
Among many involvements, he was a longtime member of the Lions Club and the Saint Francis Medical Center board of directors. He served on boards of numerous newspaper organizations and was a member of the Missouri Press Association Hall of Fame.
He served in the army in the late 1960s, and graduated with a master's degree from the University of Missouri. Lage joined Rust Communications in 1993.
His golfing friends remember him for his strong-but-quiet input on issues. Industry leaders remember him for being a mentor.
"Our hearts are aching right now," co-president of Rust Communications and Southeast Missourian publisher Jon K. Rust said. "Wally was not only a tremendous newspaperman, but a great friend -- and a rock for his family. May they feel the love of all who've known, admired and respected a remarkable man."
Rust said Lage touched the lives of many. By late Friday morning, the news of his death spread across the country.
"We're received a flood of telephone calls and e-mails from people in Boston, Maine, Florida, Washington and places in between," Rust said. "All are in shock and saddened by this tragic loss. We've also heard stories from employees of Rust Communications from around the Midwest, remembering how he always made them feel at east and was never shy with his laugh. He was a mentor to many and a friend to all."
Lage began his newspaper career in 1969 with Winsor Newspaper in Canton, Ill. By age 25, he was publisher of the Boonville Daily News and publisher of free publications in Jefferson City, Mo., and Columbia, Mo.
Before joining Rust Communications, Lage was president of newspaper operations in the Paxton Media Group and general manager of the Paducah Sun. He oversaw acquisitions of several daily and weekly newspapers.
At Rust Communications, he oversaw the acquisition or startup of about 50 newspaper titles in eight states, including 13 daily newspaper.
The Associated Press reported that emergency workers were alerted Thursday evening when Lage fell into the water and failed to surface. Deputies say Lage and friends were unloading a boat after an outing in Portland. One of the witnesses jumped into the water but couldn't find him.
Emergency workers performed CPR, but Lage was pronounced dead at Mid Coast Hospital.
Survivors include his wife Dori, four children and seven grandchildren.
A visitation will take place at St. Vincent Church, but the time has yet to be determined. Other arrangements are not known at this time.