Ken Dickman's deep, gravelly voice would bellow with delight each time the phone would ring at News 12 Long Island, greeting callers with his distinctive "Hello News."
Whether chasing down a politician ensnared in controversy, extolling the history of Jones Beach or doling out tips about Long Island's best diners, Dickman, News 12's longtime assignment editor, was an unrivaled reservoir of area knowledge. To his colleagues he had a comforting presence, even during the most trying of assignments.
"Ken understood what would be a good story," said Mark Ambrico, News 12's former operations manager and a close friend of Dickman. "He was a natural because he came across as a genuine person."
Dickman died Wednesday at Atria Independent Living in Holbrook after a battle with brain and small intestine cancer. He was 74.
Born and raised in Franklin Square, Dickman was the younger of two children to Albert Dickman, an aeronautics engineer, and Flora Dickman, a homemaker. His brother, Stuart Dickman, died in 2008.
Robin O'Connell said Dickman, her second cousin, was a dutiful son who took special care of his mother until her death in April 2020 at the age of 106. One month later, Dickman was admitted the hospital with congestive heart failure.
"The doctors called it broken heart syndrome. I think he was so heartbroken about losing his mom," said O'Connell, of Chandler, Arizona. "Kenny was a giver. When it came to his brother, his father or mother, he put himself second. And he took care of my aunt the best he could."
Dickman obtained a bachelor's degree in history from Adelphi College and a master's in education from the Garden City school. A history buff who was particularly knowledgeable about the Revolutionary War and New York State history, Dickman had intentions on a career in education and was a certified social studies teacher.
But he got hooked by the news business, first taking a job in affiliate relations at WABC before moving to WNBC and in 1980 to Atlanta as one of the original producers at CNN. Before James Earl Jones became the voice of the network, announcing "This is CNN," Dickman's deep baritone pipes did voice-over work for the fledgling cable news channel.
Dickman returned home to Long Island in 1986, helping to usher another startup news channel: News 12 Long Island.
For 31 years, Dickman helped steer the island's news coverage from behind the scenes, tracking down sources, setting up on-camera interviews and directing reporters to their assignments.
Pat Dolan, former president of News 12 networks and the current owner of Newsday Media Group, said Dickman was not only a terrific assignment editor but one of the kindest people in the news business.
"Everyone loved Ken," Dolan said in a statement. "He was always genuinely friendly and approachable in that affable low key way of his. People just naturally trusted him. Because of that, he was able to get total strangers to commit to spilling their guts on camera resulting in a lot of great stories for News 12. In the pressure-cooker world of TV news, he was a sea of calm and good will."
In 1989, Dickman, who retired in 2017, was nominated for a New York Emmy Award for his spot-news coverage of the brutal murder of 13-year-old Kelly Ann Tinyes of Valley Stream.
Friends and colleagues at News 12 recalled Dickman's bodacious laugh, his love of old western films and new cars, his desk drawer packed with every possible condiment and his encyclopedic knowledge of Long Island diners.
Want to know which diner served the best fries, steaks or burgers? Dickman could recite the details from the top of his head.
"You would be hard pressed to walk past the assignment desk and not see people over there chatting with him for hours," said News 12 reporter Christine Insinga. " … He was a great storyteller and could make you feel like the most special person."
Richard Pokress grew up with Dickman, his first cousin, and the pair traveled together to Hawaii and California.
"I am going to miss his friendship," said Pokress, who lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico. "He was my closest friend."
Dickman is survived by 16 cousins. A funeral will be held Thursday at New Montefiore Cemetery in West Babylon.