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Martin Berck dead; ex-Newsday editorial board member was 88

Martin Gans Berck, 88, a former Newsday editorial

Martin Gans Berck, 88, a former Newsday editorial writer specializing in foreign affairs, has died. He began his career as a copy boy at the New York Daily Mirror, worked at the New York Herald Tribune and finished up his career with a 20-year stint at Newsday. Credit: Newsday / Dan Goodrich

Veteran journalist Martin Gans Berck, whose work included covering world leaders at the United Nations and an epic murder case in Ohio, and serving a long stint at Newsday, died Tuesday of natural causes at age 88, his family said.

Berck’s 40-year career, ending at Newsday in 1992, included covering irate Soviet leader Nikita Kruschev pounding his shoe on a table at the United Nations in 1960, according to his wife, Lenore.

He was the first reporter on the scene in 1954 when Dr. Sam Sheppard’s wife was found beaten to death in their suburban Cleveland home, Berck’s wife said.

“He wrote the first story about the bushy-haired stranger the doctor said beat him [in the house] that night,” she said.

Sheppard’s murder conviction was overturned on appeal and he was acquitted at a retrial. DNA evidence later linked blood at scene to another man, and the crime became the basis for the TV show and movie “The Fugitive.”

Berck was born Feb. 5, 1928, in Manhattan and met his future wife, Lenore Fierstein, through an arranged date in 1950 while he was working at the New York Daily Mirror, she said.

They were married in 1953 after he returned from serving in the Army in Korea. He finished work on his master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University later that year and went to work as The Associated Press correspondent in Cleveland.

He became the United Nations correspondent for the New York Herald Tribune in 1956, moved to NBC News in 1966 and then joined Newsday in 1972. He served as the paper’s foreign editor and became a member of the editorial board, specializing in foreign affairs and national issues.

His former Newsday colleague Leo Seligsohn, of Sarasota, Florida, said Berck was “a great guy, a great friend and he had a tremendous grasp of international and domestic affairs.”

After retiring, the couple, who lived in Teaneck, New Jersey, bought a second home in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, where he helped launch a scholarship program for local children. The couple sold the house two years ago.

He was active in Jewish causes and had written often about efforts by Russian Jews to leave the Soviet Union.

After leaving Newsday, he took up painting and photography and several of his works decorate the couple’s home.

In addition to his wife, Berck is survived by sons Jonathan of upstate Garrison, New York, David of Chappaqua, New York, in Westchester County; daughter Judith Bryan of Portland, Oregon; and five grandchildren.

Berck was buried Wednesday at Salem Fields Cemetery in Cypress Hills, Brooklyn.

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