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Journalist Bob Heisler, dead at 60

Curiosity, knowledge of pop culture and an ability to relate to people from varied backgrounds proved invaluable to journalist Bob Heisler as he pursued his career at seven newspapers, including Newsday.

Family members and co-workers of Heisler recalled his passion for reporting and editing, which traced to his student days at Syracuse University.

During two stints at Newsday, Heisler played key roles in the development of the paper's Queens edition, and in arts coverage and the Fun Book. He died Saturday, at age 60 at Calvary Hospital in the Bronx, of esophageal cancer.

"I've never met anyone who could find immediate common ground with anyone he met," said Heisler's daughter, Sarah, an opera singer from Larchmont. "People felt at ease with him and that helped him in his career."

The son of Joseph and the late Ann Heisler grew up in Jackson Heights, Queens. He was interested in science until he joined the staff of The Daily Orange, the student paper at Syracuse.

"My father was the editor when the Daily Orange became independent from the university [in 1971-73]. . . . He really loved his time there," Sarah Heisler said.

Daily Orange editors have toasted their ascension to the top job by drinking from Heisler's brown, leather wingtip shoe, which he left after graduation, the paper reported in 2003.

About five years out of college, Heisler began working at Newsday, serving for a time as assigning editor in the Queens bureau. He left in 1981, but returned in the early 1990s, working in the features department, then called Part II.

"Bob Heisler was one of the warmest, funniest guys who ever worked at Newsday," said Andy Edelstein, the paper's entertainment editor. "He was upbeat in what is typically a very cynical profession."

Heisler met his first wife, Peg Finucane, at Newsday, where she worked in the Viewpoints department. The couple lived in the Westchester County community of Larchmont. She died in 2007. He recently wed Sherryl Connolly of Bloomfield, N.J.

Barbara Schuler, assistant managing editor for Newsday's exploreLI department, praised Heisler's knowledge of pop culture. "I think of him as a true Renaissance man. He loved the arts," she said.

Heisler also worked twice at the New York Daily News; at the time of his death, he was managing editor for features. The paper's top editor, Colin Myler, lauded Heisler's courage in facing cancer for a second time. (He was a 10-year survivor of breast cancer.) "Bob Heisler was a man of immense integrity, humor and, above all, a beloved colleague," Myler said.

In a career that spanned nearly 40 years, Heisler also worked at the New York Post, the Providence Journal-Bulletin in Rhode Island, the Philadelphia Daily News, the Stamford Advocate in Connecticut and the Journal News in White Plains.

In addition to his daughter, father and wife, Heisler is survived by a sister, Michele Scruton of Redding, Conn.

Funeral services will be held Tuesday at 10 a.m. at the Westchester Jewish Center, 175 Rockland Ave., Mamaroneck. Burial will follow the service.

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