RIP Phil from Philly, 1959-2015

Sad news to share … Phil Beck, who was president of the now-closed Philadelphia Pro Chapter of SPJ, died Thursday, July 9, on his 56th birthday, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he had been a writer. His funeral was Sunday.

SPJ leaders from around Region 1 shared their remembrances of Phil over the weekend. If you would like to add your own thoughts, send them to and we’ll add them here ….

SPJ is a big outfit with thousands of great members who are dedicated to advancing and protecting journalism day in and day out. But sometimes there are parts of the country where this work falls mainly on the shoulders of a few very dedicated individuals. Such was the case in Philadelphia, where for many years Phil Beck was the person who kept the flame burning for SPJ. I know that in the end, the chapter was deactivated because it could not meet the minimum standards SPJ sets for programing and annual reports. But having worked personally with Phil on several projects, I admired his dedication to SPJ.In particular, I remember his invaluable help in going to bat for a Temple University photojournalism student who ran afoul of the Philadelphia police for simply taking pictures while on assignment. Phil was a good guy. I will miss him.

—John Ensslin, former national SPJ president, New Jersey Pro

I first met Phil through SPJ. I can’t remember precisely where or when, but it was surely with a smile and wonderful conversation. Through the years we’d see each other and catch up at Regions or National, and always with a warm hug and as though it hadn’t been a year since we last saw each other. Conversation with Phil ranged from journalism to travel to family. He was an intense listener and offered guidance so easily. More recently we have only kept in touch via Facebook, but he was always there with comforting words or encouragement or just something to make me chuckle. When I heard of his passing it was like a punch to the gut. To not be able to hear his laugh, see his smile, or listen to his stories again leaves an empty feeling in my heart. Phil was one of those people you are so glad to have in your life and his absence will be felt deeply.

—Kara Matuszewski Sassone,  New England Pro

I remember when he needed help with the Philadelphia conference, and me and Carl worked to put it together. He was so genuinely appreciative and kind. He greeted us both with smiles and hugs, and you could tell he just seems so happy for us to be there. He was truly genuine in his appreciation.

—Dominick Miserandino, Press Club of Long Island

To say someone’s smile lights up a room is the ultimate cliche, but Phil Beck’s smile did just that. I remember him walking into the hotel at Ted Scripps Leadership Institute in Indianapolis and grabbing me in his great bear hug, lifting me off the ground. We had a blast at Scripps, convincing the hotel bartender that he couldn’t make mint juleps because we weren’t in Kentucky, he had to make Whiskey Rebellions; posing for pictures getting carded at the duck pin bowling alley, trying to teach Midwesterners how to properly sing “Sweet Caroline” and, oh, by the way, learning how to make our chapters better. On that trip, he almost, almost, convinced me that birds make good pets. Phil from Philly was a lot of fun, but he was also a serious, dedicated journalist. And, he loved SPJ the way we all do. He pretty much singlehandedly arranged a regional conference at Temple and, if he was sometimes reluctant to accept help, well, nobody knew what Philadelphia needed quite so well. My heart is aching today for I have lost a dear friend. And so has SPJ.

—Jane Primerano, New Jersey Pro

I will miss his smile, his motorcycle and his passion for the truth… Especially in journalism.

—Pat Trotsky, Keystone Pro

My favorite memory of Phil was at the 2010 national conference in Las Vegas, my first conference as Deadline Club president. Phil was the only person who would accompany me to Downtown Las Vegas, or Old Vegas, for the tacky (yet wonderful) Fremont Street Experience. Phil, who was roughly the size of a grizzly bear, protected me from getting harassed from street-corner proselytizers, alleyway hustlers, run-of-the-mill drunks and any variety of crooks and con men. Along the way, we cracked so many jokes that my sides literally hurt with laughter afterward. Phil not only was a good journalist and a good friend, he was a Good Man (™, ®, etc). The world is a lesser place without him.

—Rebecca Baker, Region 1 Director, New York Deadline Club


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