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Cancer kills beloved Daily News Editor
Robert Heisler, 60
Features Dept. chief 'was man of integrity'
BY DAVID HINCKLEY / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS / Updated: Saturday, May 5, 2012, 11:00 PM
Daily News Managing Editor for Features Robert A. (Bob) Heisler, long known in city journalism circles for his wide breadth of knowledge, enthusiasm and bemused sense of humor, died Saturday at Calvary Hospital after a long struggle with cancer. He was 60.
He was an editor who was well-liked both among managers and his staff. "Bob Heisler was a man of immense integrity, humor and above all a beloved colleague," said Daily News Editor-in-Chief Colin Myler. "He fought his illness with enormous courage and indefatigable spirit. The Daily News has lost a great
professional and we will miss him so very much."
In a journalism career that began at the Syracuse Daily Orange, Heisler worked at the Daily News twice, Newsday twice, the New York Post, the Stamford Advocate, the Journal News, the Philadelphia Daily News and the Providence Journal-Bulletin.
He also worked at York College, Purchase College, Arts In Crisis, the Institute for Justice and ArtsWestchester.
News Features Editor Robert Heisler, 60, "was a natural communicator," said his daughter, Sarah. He was an absolutely a news junkie," said his daughter, opera singer Sarah
Heisler. "From the time he got to college, it was his life. He was a natural communicator. I have never met anyone else who managed to find common ground with every single person he ever met. He knew and could chat in depth about almost anything."
He recently remarked how he had covered subjects from municipal meetings to theater openings to Sept 11, and that in some ways they all tied together. "Forty years ago this month I was covering a 'John Lindsay for President' campaign rally," he said this year. "Now I'm editing a story on a movie about
Sarah Palin. Life has a funny way of taking you in circles."
Much of his own life centered on his daughter, whom he raised alone after her mother died of cancer several years ago.
"Sarah was his life," said Richard Huff, former Daily News television editor. "He would always fill us in on what she'd done at home and the various performances along the way. He was incredibly proud of the woman she became." He would regularly pause at his computer to watch videos of Sarah's performances. "And whenever he did," said Huff, "he glowed."
She said Saturday the feeling was mutual.
"I simply could not possibly have designed or requested a better, more loving father," she said. "There is an incredible vacuum in my life. He had so much more to do and teach."
Heisler was an earlier cancer survivor himself. When it came back after he rejoined The News in December 2010, it didn't slow him down. After he started to lose his hair from chemotherapy, he shaved the rest of it off, saying, "I don't want to frighten the younger staff."
"Anyone on the outside would say Bob was dealt two bad hands in having to battle cancer twice," said Huff. "Not Bob. He saw his personal battle as an opportunity to teach others about life, which he did. No matter how tired or worn down he was from the treatment, he was always upbeat. He was an inspiration."
His enthusiasm as an editor was also contagious, said Huff, recalling how he could wax poetic "about a butter sculpture he saw at the State Fair in Syracuse."
He made his first mark in journalism at the Daily Orange, which began publishing independent of the university under his editorship. When he graduated in 1973, he left behind a brown wing-tip shoe from which every subsequent editor now takes a ceremonial quaff of beer.
He had been away from work for several weeks in the final stages of his cancer, but when a friend visited last weekend and told him the staff missed him, he sent back a message that suggested his sense of humor was intact.
"Tell them I'll see them all," he said. "Eventually."
Besides Sarah, he is survived by his wife, Sherryl, whom he married last fall.
The funeral will be Tuesday at 10 a.m. at the Westchester Jewish Center in Mamaroneck.
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