(Left to right) Ed Cunningham, Fred Ficke and Jean Marsh of "Upstairs, Downstairs"
WHYY-TV Studios, Philadelphia
Fred Ficke worked at WHYY-TV for over four decades. Back in the day, he worked in film development down in Wilmington, but he's best remembered to the station's staff as their stage manager. He coached everyone the PBS outlet ever put on camera, from U.S. Presidents to the station's fund raising staff.
Some of the WHYY programs Fred worked on included the Philadelphia Orchestra broadcasts, the 1999 Mark Russell Comedy Special, the 1992 PBS Special "The Dinosaurs," Out of Work (a 1991 WGBH special) and many of the Ed Cunningham documentaries.
After graduating from R.C.A. Institute in New York City in the spring of 1965, Fred Ficke was hired at WPIX, Channel 11 in the Big Apple. He was told this assignment was temporary, a maximum of 90 days. While at Channel 11, he spent most of his time televising the Mets from Shea Stadium. Anyone who knew Fred, knew he didn't care for sports. This assignment became a real drag real quickly. Many gentlemen would have loved working at Shea Stadium.
On September 13, 1965, Fred was hired at WHYY, Channel 12, in Philadelphia. Having grown up in North Jersey, he had to relocate to the Philadelphia area. He found an apartment in a older home in West Philadelphia. Fortunately, it was within walking distance of Channel 12 which was then located in the old WFIL-TV studios at 46th and Market Streets.
Fred started out as a TV camera man. In a short while he became the staff photographer and cinematographer.
On May 4, 1968, he wed Linda Scott in a traditional wedding in North Jersey. On. April 26,1971, their son was born. Two years later, on March 24,1973, their twin daughters, Susan Beth and Sandra Lynn were born. Twins was quite a surprise.
In October 1979, Fred was fortunate enough to film Pope John Paul ll upon his arrival to Philadelphia. He followed the Pope around the city.
His wife, Linda, said that he worked on twp interesting assignments: "Secrets Beneath the Streets" and "Things that aren't there Anymore."
In1967, Fred filmed President Lyndon Johnson and Prime Minister Kosygin at the US-Soviet Summit in Glassboro, New Jersey. He did get assignments with several presidents: Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and George Bush.
Over the years he worked with several Hollywood personalities: John Cleese of Monty Python, Bill Paxton fromTwister and Dick Clark.
On July 31,2005, Fred retired from Channel 12, after 40 years of dedicated service. He enjoyed his retirement, being able to do what he wanted when he wanted.
In February of 2012 Fred entered Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital for surgery. He was in physical therapy on February 14th when he had a massive heart attack and passed away. He was 68 years old.
We asked Bill Marrazzo, president and CEO of WHYY, for a comment. He told us:
As with the entire broadcast industry, at WHYY the only thing that seems to stay the same is change! Navigating these times takes professionals who are knowledgeable about their craft and loyal to our audiences. Fred Ficke was all of that and more. His technical contributions at WHYY to excellence in broadcasting are legendary and were only outdone by his sense of humor and concern for others. Our industry has lost a great contributor and even better person. He will be missed.
From the official archives of the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia
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