Neil T. Drew

Neil T. Drew, 71, of Malone, died Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013, at Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington, Vt.

Born Feb. 24, 1941, in Newport, Vt., he was the son of the late Milton W. and Pearl (Tabor) Drew.

He attended Newport schools, where in high school he played trumpet in the band and won a varsity letter for sports, playing baseball and football. It was during this time that he became a die-hard Yankees fan. It was also then that his desire to pursue broadcasting began.

Gifted with a “one-in-a-million” voice, as a teenager he would practice spinning records in his bedroom at home. And upon graduating from high school in 1959, he accepted his first job in radio at WKTQ, South Paris, Norway, Maine. He continued there until 1960 when he accepted a position at WEGP, Presque Isle, Maine. He worked there as a disc jockey, learning old-style radio, until 1961, when he then went to work for WIRY in Plattsburgh.

It was not long before he was transferred to WIRY’s then newly constructed affiliate station, WIRD, in Lake Placid.

In 1962, restless and knowing he did not want to solely be a DJ, he went to work for WNBZ in Saranac Lake, where he remained one year.

Then with another chance for promotion, in 1963, he returned to WIRD, initially as program director, and then as news director. Thus began a life-long passion for news reporting. He had found his niche.

Nine years later, in 1972, he was approached by WPTZ-TV of Plattsburgh to take on the position of news anchorman. From the onset, it was his goal to bring that station into a number one rating in the Northeast. Despite the skepticism of his bosses and colleagues, he did just that, pulling in the station’s highest ever viewing audience – a record still unbroken.

During his 10 year affiliation with WPTZ he had the honor of working with such wonderful colleagues as Jack LaDuke and Bird Birdan, to name a few, and Jeannie Moos, who went on to report for CNN.

He had the opportunity to interview such well-known individuals as Indira Ghandi, astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong, celebrities Kate Smith, Mitch Miller, Colonel Harlan Sanders and Jerry Lewis and developed a lasting relationship with some.

He was privileged to host the annual WPTZ Muscular Dystrophy Telethon from 1974-1979, bringing in multi-thousands of dollars for that cause.

One of the personal highlights of his television career was acting as news producer for NBC Network News during its coverage of the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid. It was the year of the U.S. “dream team.” Because of his personal coverage of so many events, he was able to be present at the historical hockey match between the United States and the Soviet Union.

It was during this same time that NBC, impressed by his reporting and delivery, offered him a position in their Atlanta offices. But you could not take the “small town” out of the man, and he declined.

After leaving television in 1982, he founded his own highly successful production company, specializing in documentaries and commercials. This continued until 1994 when he retired.

But always the newsman at heart, and missing the excitement of work, in 1997 he returned to broadcasting. He accepted the position of News Director at WICY radio in Malone and its affiliate stations, aka Martz Communications Group. And for 16 years he enjoyed every moment of presenting the news to his listeners in his direct, simple and often wry manner.

Aside from his broadcasting career, from 1967-1975 he owned and operated what is now the Red Fox Restaurant in Saranac Lake. And from 2000-2005 he wrote for the Mohawk newspaper, the Indian Times, regarding Native American affairs.

Neil was an avid photographer throughout his life and definitely had a special artistic ability. He read daily, books of fact only, with a special interest in U.S. historical figures.

He loved Scrabble, cheated when he could, sometimes played the trumpet and delighted in antique auctions. And he loved to tell the stories of his lifetime experiences, many of which overflowed with humor that delighted friends, family and acquaintances.

Neil was married in 1963 to Diane Wardner, now Elmore; they divorced in 1990 and remained life-long friends. She survives and resides in Shelburne, Vt., with her husband Gene.

Other surviving relatives include their one daughter, Kimberly DeMattio, and granddaughter Amanda DeMattio, who live in Colchester, Vt.

He re-married in 2009 to Darlene (Tennyson) Dana-Drew, of Malone, and had one stepson, Michael Dana of Mt. Laurel, N.J.

His one brother, Darryl Drew and sister-in-law Rita of Scotia survive along with their children, nephew Dennis Drew, his wife Karen and their son Leo of Rochester, and his niece Laurinda (Drew) Halliday, her husband Scott and their children Byran and Jennifer, all of Clifton Park. He is also survived by many cousins.

His brother-in law Lowell Tennyson and sister-in law Cherrill also reside in Malone as well as sister-in-law Margo (Tennyson) Stromer and her husband Chris.

Funeral services are being arranged through the Spaulding Funeral Home of Malone. A private prayer and memorial service has been planned for the family. Public calling hours will be held at the Spaulding Funeral Home from 2 to 6 p.m. Friday, Feb. 8, and from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 9.

The Drew family extends its deepest sympathy and respect to Tim Martz, Michael Boldt and Neil’s entire work family at Martz Communications. And immeasurable gratitude is conveyed to the Burke Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department for their outstanding efforts.