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Subject: Herbert George Pelkey, 69, reporter and editor for The Associated Press

March 14 in Philadelphia
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Date Posted: March 24, 2003 6:39:28 EDT

Pelkey had been hospitalized for a month with a brain hemorrhage, said his daughter, Kim Pelkey.

For three decades, Pelkey was widely respected by AP colleagues and newspaper editors across Pennsylvania. He was chief planner of AP's coverage of Pennsylvania's two statewide elections each year, and he worked closely with the Pennsylvania Associated Press Managing Editors group.

"Herb had a good eye for the compelling detail that could draw a reader into the story," said George Zucker, who was the AP chief of bureau in Philadelphia for 20 years until he retired in 1998. "But he was also quick to raise a red flag when a story went beyond what was known."

Pelkey, a native of Utica, N.Y., lived in Willingboro, N.J., a suburb of Philadelphia.

He joined the AP in Albany, N.Y., in 1961. He was the Syracuse correspondent from 1964 to 1969 before becoming news editor for Pennsylvania.

In 1993, Pelkey was appointed to the newly created position of assistant chief of bureau for Pennsylvania. Pelkey, who suffered from diabetes, went on disability leave in 1997 and retired in 2000.

As a senior AP editor in Pennsylvania, Pelkey coordinated coverage of several stories of national importance, including the 1985 firebombing by Philadelphia police following a gun battle with the radical group MOVE. The bombing ignited a blaze that killed 11 people, including five children.

Perhaps the biggest story of Pelkey's career was the Three Mile Island disaster of March 1979, the nation's most serious accident at a commercial nuclear power plant.

But it was Pelkey's unwavering concern for journalistic principles that stood out in colleagues' minds.

"I say probably his sense of fairness in the news and making sure we always get both sides of the story. He wanted to make sure that we had the details right," said Pennsylvania Broadcast Editor Dick Lawyer, who started at the AP in 1972 under Pelkey.

Bob Keller, the AP's chief of communications for Pennsylvania, said Pelkey was a stickler on election nights.

"He was very concerned that things were done properly," Keller said. "He realized what it really meant, it was something everyone watched, everyone wanted to know what was going on election night. It was a public service thing."

Pelkey's style was professorial - he wore tweed jackets, smoked a pipe, and drank martinis - and his manner was low-key.

Pelkey was a sergeant in the Marines during the Korean War, and after retiring from the AP was active in the Marine Corps League in Burlington County.

Besides his daughter, survivors include three sons.

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