Combining calm with creativity and camaraderie to design some of Newsday's most iconic covers, Warren R. Weilbacher, 82, of Port Washington was a groundbreaking art director.
"He kept it light and fun, but he knew how to meet deadlines under the blink of an eye," said Ned Levine, a Newsday special artist, who worked for Weilbacher. Weilbacher died Aug. 20 at a hospital during an operation for an aneurysm. He worked at Newsday from 1961 to 1995.
His front pages included "The Blackout," in 1965, and "The Heroin Trail," a 1974 Pulitzer Prize-winning series that tracked the drug business back to its roots in Turkey. Those covers exemplified Weilbacher's spare and elegant style, said Gary Rogers, a Newsday deputy art director.
"He was able to bring it to the absolute essential kernel, the simplest and strongest way to represent a story, with a beautiful sense of typography," Rogers said.
Weilbacher's wife, Joan, recalled that she didn't see him for more than a month during the heroin series.
"He was working every day for Newsday, that's how long it took," she said.
The couple went to William Cullen Bryant High School in Astoria, Queens, but that is not where they met. After high school, Joan Weilbacher took a part-time job at a Woolworth in midtown Manhattan.
"And he walked through and stopped at the place I was working and started to talk to me," she said.
After serving in the Korean War, Weilbacher attended art school in Manhattan. He was then hired by Newsday.
Tony Insolia, formerly Newsday's editor, said Weilbacher helped the newspaper develop its signature look, setting it apart from its peers.
"He worked there at a time when Newsday started to use artists much more extensively in designing pages," Insolia said.
Weilbacher's former colleagues also saluted his talent for making them feel like family.
Levine described him as the "backbone" of the art department. "He was a really fun-loving guy, he was a great man, he certainly taught me how to stay calm under pressure," Levine said.
His daughter-in-law, Eileen, of Rocky Point, said, "He was like a father to me."
Weilbacher also is survived by his son, Warren; a sister, Dolly Rahm, of Connecticut; and two grandchildren. A viewing is set for Thursday from 2 to 4 p.m. and from 7 to 9 p.m. at Austin F. Knowles Inc. Funeral Home in Port Washington. Interment is at 11 a.m. Friday at Long Island National Cemetery, Pinelawn.