New Castle News

September 18, 2013

Vosburg Memories 1: Editor ‘left indelible mark on New Castle’

David Burcham
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — Bob Vosburg was an outsider when he arrived in New Castle in the 1950s.

This week, he is being remembered as one of the community’s greatest treasures, as well as a local journalism legend.

The former sports editor and managing editor of the New Castle News died Monday at 82.

Vosburg didn’t let a physical disability — diagnosed late in his life as spina bifida — keep him from reaching the top of his profession.

Although he retired from The News as managing editor, Vosburg first made a name for himself as the newspaper’s sports editor. On Tuesday, several former coaches and News sports writers shared their thoughts and memories of a man they admired.

“First and foremost he was a really good human being,” said Frank Bongivengo Sr., former Shenango High football coach.

“When I dealt with him ... you could rely on him and trust him.

“Those are tremendous qualities in any human being,” Bongivengo said. “When he wrote a story, you could rest assured that’s the way he saw it.

“When I said something to him, I felt comfortable that it would be reported that way.

“He loved his job and was very good at it.”

“He left an indelible mark on New Castle and the News,” said attorney Larry Kelly. “That will be his legacy.”

“He could have worked for the New York Times or Washington Post, but he was a gift to the people of New Castle and the New Castle News,” said Kelly, a former sportswriter hired by Vosburg in 1977.

“He was a newspaper man through and through, a no-nonsense guy who told it like it was, good or bad. That’s what I loved about him,” Kelly said.

“I can never pick up The News and read it without thinking of him.

“He was a man of integrity and a consummate professional. If your epitaph has to read anything, you would want those words.

“His was a life well lived.”

Bob Melder, who worked with Vosburg in the sports department and years later in the news department, said his former boss first served as assistant sports editor.

“When he came here in the early 1950s, he didn’t know anything about New Castle. But he fell in love with the community. And he made a name for himself in this town.”

Melder said Vosburg was part of the “golden era of New Castle sports.”

“He was in his glory covering the football teams of Phil Bridenbaugh and Lindy Lauro and basketball with Connie Palumbo and Don Ross,” Melder said.

“He would walk with a cane and sometimes fell. But you never helped him up unless you asked first,” Melder recalled. “Usually he would get up with no assistance, but sometimes after a long day, he would allow you to help him.”

Melder said Vosburg believed his condition was the result of something that had happened when he was born. But when Vosburg was in his 70s, doctors determined he had been dealing with spina bifida.

“I had spina bifida all those years and didn’t even know it,” Vosburg told Melder.

Ron Plano was a junior at Union High School in 1955 when he encountered Vosburg.

“I had a part-time job at gas station and parking lot,” Plano recalled.

“Bob was a determined man,” he added.

“He was using a cane and he fell. I went over the help him up, but he said ‘no I can do it myself.’ ”

After college, Plano returned to teach and coach football and track at New Castle. He operated the scoreboard at the fieldhouse, occupying a seat next to Vosburg.

“We had a lot of conversations during those seven or eight years,” Plano said.

“He was so knowledgeable about sports. He always expressed his opinion and I enjoyed reading his articles.

“When I reminded Bob about our first meeting in that parking lot, he laughed,” Plano said.

“I had so much respect for that man.”

“Bob was an outstanding newspaper person,” said Connie Palumbo, former New Castle High basketball coach.

“He could have risen to the very top in the country, but he chose New Castle and the surrounding community because he loved it.

“He covered all of our games and would travel with us on the bus for away games.” Palumbo said. “He had a knack for putting together stories that was second to none.”

Palumbo said the death of Vosburg was not only a personal loss, but one for the community as well.

“When I coached, we lived and worked as a family and Bob was part of our family,” Palumbo said. “He touched so many people and had such great compassion.

“He was an outstanding sports writer and an outstanding person.”

“He never missed a game,” said Don Ross, another former New Castle basketball coach. “In fact, he would announce the starting lineups. At times, he knew who would start before I did.”

“He was a tremendous writer and a very likable person,” Ross said. “I wondered why he stayed here his entire career, but I know it was because of love for New Castle and high school sports.

“He wrote what he thought and did it in a very professional way. He covered New Castle kids with fairness and class.

“As far as any handicap, in his eyes, he had none,” Ross said.

“That’s the way I will remember him.”