Former News Journal and Philadelphia Daily News Sports Reporter and Columnist Bill Fleischman died Wednesday morning at the age of 80.
Fleischman spent over 45 years in the journalism industry, starting at the Burlington (New Jersey) County Times from 1961-66 before spending parts of the next four years in Delaware at The News Journal.
His next stop would be his career move, going to the Daily News where he worked his way from sports writer to desk editor, eventually being named the Assistant Sports Editor in a run that continued until 2005. Even after leaving those posts, he remained as a correspondent for the paper.
Bill covered a lot of ground in his reporting, including the Flyers' two Stanley Cups in 1974 and 1975, but it was his versatility that made him valuable.
Bill became a fixture at auto races, including NASCAR's two stops annual in Dover, the U.S. Open tennis championships, and also college basketball of all levels.
Current Philadelphia Daily News Sports Managing Editor Pat McLoone said Fleischman's ability to cover any subject was great, but he was an even better person.
"If you wanted a warm, loyal, nice friend, Bill Fleischman was your guy. The word "nice" is coming through all the time, "kind" is coming through, a lot of people have responded that he was a gem of a human being. "Gem" hit me as being the perfect word.
While Bill was putting together his own career, he was also setting up the next generation of journalists.
In addition to his work with the newspapers, he also spent 28 years as an adjunct professor in the University of Delaware's journalism department, something that McLoone noted was very important to Bill.
"Bill really enjoyed mentoring young people, and he really enjoyed seeing them grow up to be big successes. He had a lot of people who he stoked their love of journalism, and go on to have successful careers."
One of those reporters is Jeff Pearlman, who has worked for Sports Illustrated and ESPN.com
"When I was in college as editor of the paper [University of Delaware Review] I did a lot of juvenile antics and things you really wouldn't advise. I got a lot of journalism teachers mad at me and a lot of people at the University mad at me, but he was always really supportive. He would tell you if you screwed up, but he had such a good ear, and was such a good person to talk to."
Pearlman added Flesichman's showed kindness can take you a long way in what can be a stressful industry.
"The reason he so well regarded for his time as a beat writer with the with the Flyers, is because he was such a decent guy. There are a lot of reporters in this world, especially nowadays, who just aren't trusted. People don't trust their word, they don't trust their work ethic, they don't trust their motives. Bill never had any of that. He was just a really good guy. I really learned as much from watching him, even more than the class, and value of decency and how far that can take you in journalism and why that matters so much."
Jeff Gluck was another of Fleischman's students, and after stints at outlets including USA TODAY, he is now the author of jeffgluck.com, a website devoted to covering NASCAR, one of Fleischman's passions.
Gluck said Fleischman urged his students to think outside the box.
"He really wanted to push you and say, here's what you should do. Don't settle for this, be fair, but be creative. It would really bother him when people would settle for the mundane, routine stuff. He had a way of challenging you and pushing you, but in the kindest way possible."
Gluck also noted that the University of Delaware journalism community has circled around the same thought, a love for a friend first, and a professor second.
"When you have a teacher that has an impact on that many careers, that's a powerful thing. Delaware got a great one there. I know he was really proud of the Blue Hens and everything that was going on there. It was really cool to see all of the tributes coming in from all around the journalism industry."
In addition to his newspaper work, Fleischman also co-authored two books: “Bernie, Bernie”, the auto biography of Flyers goaltender Bernie Parent, and several editions of “The Unauthorized NASCAR Fan Guide.”
Fleischman was also active with the Delaware Sports Museum and Hall of Fame, where he served as historian, writing the biographies for the nominees each year.
Bill was born on April 8, 1939 in Chester, Pennsylvania, and graduated from Gettysburg College in 1960.
While at Gettysburg, Bill hosted a radio show called “Bullet Bill’s Bandstand” and wrote for the student newspaper, which was only the beginning of his career as a journalist.
Bill is survived by his wife of 57 years, Barbara (Fridinger) Fleischman, and devoted daughter and son-in-law, Jill and Roger Herr, along with many extended family members.
A viewing will be held at the Doherty Funeral Home, 3200 Limestone Road, Pike Creek on Friday, May 3 from 4:00-7:00PM. Funeral services will be held at First Unitarian Church of Wilmington, 730 Halstead Road, Wilmington on Saturday, May 4 at 10:00AM. The interment will be held privately for immediate family.
In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to The Bill Fleischman Internship within the Journalism Program at University of Delaware, 207 Memorial Hall, University of Delaware, Newark, DE 19716 or the Orange & Blue Club at Gettysburg College, Box 423, Gettysburg, PA 17325.