Honest, ethical, professional, hard-working, great sense of humor — a soft-spoken gentleman and a treasured mentor.
Those who either worked for Fred Behringer or as associates in the field of journalism fondly remember the longtime editorial leader of Montgomery Newspapers who passed away Dec. 3 at the age of 85.
To his daughter, Toni Cubit, who saw his more personal side, “he was hard-working and generous with his time, patient and considerate, and always seemed to do the right thing.”
“He always had a book in his hand, loved country music and was a passionate Philly sports fan, especially the Phillies and the Eagles,” she recalled. “Quite a multi-tasker, he would have golf on TV, be reading a book and listening to the Phillies on a transistor radio.
“He really was a very emotional person,” she added. “He loved spending time with all of us, especially [at the family’s summer home] in Ocean City and with his granddaughter, Melissa, and his rescue retrievers."
Several who worked for Mr. Behringer, who started his career in ninth grade writing sports stories for the Ambler Gazette and rose to vice president and executive editor of the award-winning weekly newspaper group, regard him as a mentor who led them to their own successful careers.
“Fred’s mentorship changed my life. He gave me confidence, he served as a role model, and he made it possible for me to be the leader I am today,” said Tina Flint Hennessey, assistant vice president for University Development at Penn State University.
“Fred saw qualities in me that I didn’t see in myself. He believed in me. Fred encouraged me to grow professionally, to take a fellowship in DC. He gave me leadership responsibility and implemented my ideas for transforming the news operation,” said Hennessey, who started her newspaper career as his assistant and replaced him nine years later when he retired.
“I remember him as fair and steady. He never raised his voice, but you knew when something you did or produced disappointed him. On the day the newspapers were printed, Fred would read all of them, and he’d mark them up with a red pen. Every now and then, though, Fred would put a note on your desk, attached to something you had done — a story you had written or a page designed — and he would say simply ‘Great Job!’ or ‘Nice story!’ and that would be enough.
“Fred was also incredibly kind.,” Hennessey said, recalling a request from a freelance writer, who had a debilitating disease, asking to be considered as a part-timer, allowing him to purchase disability-specific equipment so he could continue to work. “Budgets were always tight, and to put another person on payroll seemed like a lot to me. I was nervous when I brought this request to Fred, and I ended by saying, ‘I know there’s no reason we have to do this,’ and Fred said, ‘You’re correct, but it’s the right thing to do.’”
Rick Woelfel, a former sports writer for the weekly chain who became associate editor for two golf magazines Mr. Behringer led following his retirement, also credits him with his own journalistic growth.
“The opportunity to work alongside him and learn from him was invaluable,” Woelfel said. “His genius was empowering the people who worked with him to put them into positions where they could grow.
“I learned from him how to work with people by watching him. It was a life-changing experience,” Woelfel said. “Fred will be missed, but never forgotten.”
“He was the consummate professional with a reassuring, understated style that inspired both unswerving loyalty and respect,” said Warren Patton, a former managing editor at Montgomery Newspapers. “To disappoint Fred, our nonpareil mentor, was unthinkable.
“Every person who worked in the editorial side of Montgomery could spend hours recounting the great wisdom, guidance and, yes, kindness Fred invested to make them both better journalists and better people.”
Citing an example of the community’s regard, as well, Patton said, “When the iconic Phillies’ broadcaster Richie Ashburn died in 1997, one of the team’s owners, the late Herb Middleton, called our office at Main Line Life in Ardmore to contribute his insights from within the organization. We were the only paper he called, Mr. Middleton said, ‘because of my deep regard for Fred Behringer.’”
“From Fred I learned to value honesty, integrity and respect,” said Betsy Wilson, a former Montgomery Newspapers publisher. “He made sure the newspapers excelled at publishing credible and relevant stories about our communities.
“He possessed experience, credibility and respect, both within our newspaper family and throughout the communities our newspapers served.”
Jeremy Jones, a former section editor, magazine managing editor and writer for the weeklies, described Mr. Behringer as “a soft-spoken lightning rod of professionalism, ethics and goodness. Above all, he was the consummate newspaper man.”
“He wasn’t as concerned with someone’s experience as much as he recognized and cultivated their potential; inspiring in them the confidence to go for it. He knew I’d never played golf but he had no doubt I could write about it,” Jones said.
“Fred took a personal interest in all of us. One day while I was writing furiously at my desk, Fred came over, looked at his watch and said, ‘Don’t you have a game to go to?’ He remembered my son had a Springfield All-Star League baseball game. I resisted and he insisted. He knew I could go to the game and still make deadline.
“It was an honor to know and work for Fred as my boss, mentor, champion. And a great gift to have remained friends for over 20 years.”
Highly regarded by others in the field, Mr. Behringer was also remembered by several who took part in a group of retired editors of Pennsylvania papers who met regularly for lunch.
“Fred was one of the finest people I knew as a person and as a newspaper editor,” said Art Mayhew, a former Delaware County Daily Times editor and former publisher of the Bucks County Courier Times. “Fred was an outstanding newspaper editor who was fortunate to work for a great publisher/owner in Bill Straburg. They were a perfect pair and jointly produced a group of the best weekly newspapers in Pennsylvania.”
Citing Mr. Behringer for his “patient training, guidance and friendship in my years under him, and sustained interest and association as my path wandered elsewhere,” Wally Gordon, a former managing editor for several of the weeklies, said “he was at the foundation of a career I treasured.”
“In a challenged field rich in past memories, Fred’s influence, humility and solid friendship will remain among the most memorable for me.”
‘He was always the consummate professional — calm, principled and a champion for the kind of real journalism we’re also mourning these days,” said Bruce Henderson, an editor in the lunch group first hired by Mr. Behringer. “We will miss him but always be grateful for his presence in our lives, and will always remember him with a smile.”
“Fred Behringer was an exceptional human being,” said Mike Sisak, a former news and sports editor and reporter for the Los Angeles Times and New York Times who began his career as a sports reporter for the Ambler Gazette. “He was a meticulous gentleman with dignity, scruples, ethics, taste and a pleasant sense of humor.”
Describing him as a “crew-cut, slim, bespectacled sleeves-rolled-up managing editor,” Sisak noted, “Fred touched a lot of lives in 70 years, beginning in the ‘50s when we shared the sideline at Friday night football games at Ambler High School.
“We will miss Fred forever.”
See full obituary in today's B section.