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Robert Wacker, former Newsday reporter, dies at 92

Bob Wacker, who died June 2 at a

Bob Wacker, who died June 2 at a Greenport nursing home, thrived at Newsday where he worked for 15 years, as well as the Brooklyn Eagle, Riverhead News-Review and the now-defunct wire service, United Press International. He was 92. Photo Credit: Newsday

Bob Wacker got a lot out of his career as a journalist.

Like any reporter, he craved the thrill of chasing the big story of the day, reporting on it to the hilt and then hammering out lyrical prose on typewriter keys.

The field brought him adventure, a sense of purpose and the love of his life: He met the woman to whom he would be married for 50 years, a feisty journo herself, in a newsroom at a Brooklyn newspaper.

Wacker, who died June 2 at a Greenport nursing home, thrived at Newsday where he worked for 15 years, as well as the Brooklyn Eagle, Riverhead News-Review and the wire service United Press International.

He was 92.

At Newsday, Wacker chronicled some of Long Island's most memorable events. He enjoyed his work on a series on drunken driving and the salvage attempts at the Andrea Doria shipwreck that sank in 1956 but claimed the lives of treasure-seeking divers decades later.

"Nothing was more important to him than having his byline and a good story in the paper," said Thomas Wacker of Brooklyn, one of five sons. "And he pretty deliberately avoided being promoted to an editor. He just loved reporting."

He had served as editor and reporter for various outlets before settling in at Newsday, his last employer until he retired in 1987.

Wacker was born in Manhattan on Aug. 25, 1922, and raised in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, by his father, a gas inspector for Brooklyn Union gas and mother, a schoolteacher.

An only child, Wacker attended Concordia Institute in Bronxville and then went on to graduate from Colgate University and the graduate program in Columbia University's journalism school.

He enrolled in the Army during World War II in 1944, stationed in New Orleans, but was discharged for medical reasons after a year of service.

He joined the staff of the Brooklyn Eagle in 1945 and stayed for a few years at the paper, where he met the former Veronica Halkenhauser. The couple married in May 1951 and would raise five sons who were born between 1952 and 1960.

After the Brooklyn Eagle, Wacker worked in the New York office of UPI as a radio news writer and then in the outfit's southern bureau, where he sold the service to regional radio stations. Then, a couple of years later, he moved on to a public relations firm, Dudley Anderson Yutzy.

He also worked for Merck Pharmaceuticals for about 10 years; then, in late 1968 or early 1969, the family moved to Cutchogue and set down roots for good.

"Ronnie" Wacker, who had worked for the Suffolk Times and Riverhead News-Review, immersed herself in local politics with an eye toward environmentalism while Bob Wacker chased stories. He also worked for East End media outlets but found a home at Newsday, where he wrote about criminal justice, continuing his link to the paper as a freelancer after his retirement.

"Dad was proudest of his newspaper writing," said Tom Wacker.

Besides Tom Wacker, Bob Wacker is survived by sons James of Riverdale; Christopher of Long Beach, California; Jonathan of Greenville, North Carolina; and Timothy of Newburyport, Massachusetts; and five grandchildren.

There will be memorial for Wacker at his home in Cutchogue from 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in his memory to The Group for the East End.


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