Former Newsday columnist Bill Reel dies at 71

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Bill Reel, a longtime Newsday and New York Daily News columnist who chronicled the stories of everyday people, died Monday at age 71 of cancer.

Reel, twice a student but never a graduate of Yale University, worked at the Daily News from 1962 until 1991, and for Newsday from 1991 until he retired in 2001 to Sutton, N.H.

Sue Ellen Reel, who met her future husband when he was at Yale, said college science courses were a problem for him. "He flunked out twice," she said. "Bill said they were stupid to let him in the second time."

But he found his strengths there as well - languages, both Russian and English.

Reel began working for the Daily News as a copy boy. "It was for something like $40 a week," Sue Ellen Reel said. "A copy boy was basically a go-fer, get people coffee." But her husband loved New York and meeting and talking to everyday people, she said.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

He moved up to various editing and feature writing posts, and was a religion writer, before becoming a columnist in 1974. After a Daily News strike, he came to Newsday in 1991 and wrote columns for the Viewpoints section for many years until his retirement.

Many of his writings were tales of blue-collar people - police, firemen and everyday workers - and issues and positions on religion and ethics. His writing was direct, humorous and often introspective; his style was plain-spoken.

In one column about church-going, a few months before he retired from Newsday, he wrote: "Maybe church has appeal for old-timers because all we have to do is sit, stand or kneel. Assisting at worship is preferable to being out sinning, which may require more energy than we care to expend."

Besides his wife of 45 years, he is survived by two sons, Joseph S. Reel of Sutton, N.H., and John Reel of Seville, Spain; a daughter, Ursula Hennessey of Manhattan, and five grandchildren.

There will be a viewing Monday from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. at the Chadwick Funeral Home in New London, N.H., and a funeral Mass at noon in Our Lady of Fatima in New London. Burial will be Tuesday in West Part Cemetery in New London.

Subscribe to the Newsday Now newsletter for the latest top stories, photos and videos about your community and the rest of Long Island.

You also may be interested in: