Ralph Vigoda, 53, metro editor of News American

April 12, 2003|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Ralph Vigoda, a reporter for The Philadelphia Inquirer and last metropolitan editor for the old Baltimore News American, died of a heart attack late Tuesday at a hospital in suburban Wynnewood, Pa. He was 53 and had formerly lived in Pikesville.

Mr. Vigoda, a Wynnewood resident, died after his weekly ritual of playing basketball with friends in a school gym -- and about the time the presses began running with his last story on the front page, on a report criticizing the Pennsylvania parole board.

Born in Elizabeth, N.J., Mr. Vigoda met Tasha Seltzer while they were working for the student newspaper at Rutgers University. They were married in 1971, the year he began work toward a master's degree in journalism at Boston University.

Mr. Vigoda worked for the Associated Press and several newspapers in Massachusetts before becoming an assistant sports editor at the News American about 1980. He also taught journalism courses at the University of Maryland, College Park.

He was soon promoted to sports editor and later metro editor.

"With a great skill and sensitivity, he dealt with all generations of the News American staff," said James Toedtman, associate editor of Newsday and former News American editor. "He was committed to the paper and to the town. He came to appreciate the contributions of everybody at the paper."

He recalled Mr. Vigoda's tenacity in handling a reporter's investigation about cost overruns associated with a wastewater treatment plant at Back River.

"Because of his easy sense of humor and experience as a journalist, he was one of those rare line officers who could get the job done, act as a buffer between his staff and Mr. Big and still remain friends with his reporters and editors," said Ken Iglehart, a News American colleague who is now managing editor of Baltimore Magazine. "He could in fact do the job of everybody in the newsroom."

After the News American ceased publication in May 1986, Mr. Vigoda organized a job fair to help newsroom workers get new jobs.

"He was like the captain of a ship who would not leave until all his people were situated," said Charles Fancher, The Sun's director of media and public relations who attended the job fair as a recruiter for the Detroit Free Press. "He was determined and passionate that all of his people were taken care of."

Mr. Vigoda then landed at the Inquirer, where for the past 17 years he covered suburban news as a writer and editor, and was a mentor to young reporters.

He taught journalism at Temple University and was the co-author with colleague and close friend Bill Ordine, now an assistant city editor at The Sun, of a book on the 1996 slaying of Olympic gold-medal wrestler David Schultz by John E. du Pont at the estate of the chemical-fortune heir.

Mr. Vigoda is survived by his wife and two daughters, Rachel, 22, and Jessica, 27, all at home; his father, William Vigoda of Roselle, N.J.; and a sister, Brooke Vigoda of Hollywood, Calif.

Services were held Thursday.

The Philadelphia Inquirer contributed to this obituary.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.