Local/State

Remembering Gary Papa

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6abc is mourning the loss of Action News Sports Director Gary Papa, who passed away Friday, June 19, 2009.

Gary died at 2:57 p.m. at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania after a long fight with prostate cancer. He was 54 years old.

Gary leaves behind his wife Kathleen, his two sons Tucker and Nathaniel, of course his Action News family, and all of you.

"We loved Gary Papa and, you know what? He loved all of us," said Action News anchor Jim Gardner while announcing Gary's death Friday afternoon during a special report on 6abc.

Gary was born in Buffalo, New York, in 1954. Upstate New York would be his home for most of the next 27 years.

Gary went to Cornell University as an undergraduate, and actually considered a career as an attorney. He even earned his law degree at the University of Buffalo Law School.

But that's when the combination of sports and broadcasting got its hold on Gary. He went into television in Buffalo, and in Steubenville, Ohio.

In April 1981, Gary Papa came to Action News and the Delaware Valley. Gary's first report was from Milwaukee, where the Sixers were playing the Bucks in the NBA playoffs.

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Action News viewers will remember that Gary spent 9 years as weekend sports anchor, working alongside Rob Jennings.

He also spent 3 days a week reporting from the field, often on the Phillies, Flyers, Sixers and Eagles, and often on ordinary people doing extraordinary things.

Action News wasn't Gary's only program here on Channel 6. He was also the host of the long running weekend show Prime Time, taking over from Jim O'Brien in 1983.

In 1990, Gary was named Action News Sports Director.

But it would be a mistake to think that a Monday through Friday anchoring job would let Gary spend his weekends at home. Where ever the sports story was, whenever it took place, Gary was there. So when the Eagles were playing on Sundays, he was working. And if they were on the road, so was he.

And when sports came to town, even sports that we weren't all familiar with, Gary was there, and he explained them to all of us.

Because he was seemingly everywhere, seemingly all of the time, many Action News viewers considered Gary part of their families, as did all of us who worked with him.

So when Gary announced on-air in 2004 that he was battling prostate cancer, he knew he was sharing a private ordeal with people who cared, and he received an outpouring of emotion and support throughout his fight.

And for Gary it was a powerful fight. In fact, for much of that fight he was on top, but three years later, he broke the news to all of us, that he was again undergoing chemotherapy.

Through it all, Gary's love was being on air every night he could. When he sat in the studio, no matter how awful he felt, his spirit would brighten, his smile would shine, and, if even for just 3 minutes, he felt the joy and the thrill of sharing the day's sports, and being part of the day's triumphs and tragedies with all of you, and with all of us.

During special coverage of Gary's passing Friday evening on Action News, the broadcast team shared their memories of the beloved Sports Director.

"He did so much for us, he gave so much to us," said meteorologist Dave Roberts. "And I think he gave so much to the people who watched, too."

It didn't matter how long someone was part of the Action News team. Gary welcomed them instantly, as Jamie Apody found out during her first days at 6abc.

"He and his wife, Kathleen, picked me up at my apartment on a Saturday night with seven or eight of their friends in tow, took me to one of the best restaurants in town wined and dined me, and got me dessert that said "Welcome to Philadelphia, Jamie."

Those who watched Gary knew he had a lot of fun reporting on Philadelphia sports.

Sometimes, as Cecily Tynan revealed, he had a little too much fun!

"We hosted a special with Dhani Jones and we had this rapper come on. He was rapping about the Eagles, and Gary and I were dancing. We were doing "the bump" and "the cabbage patch" and we just thought it was hilarious. After the fact, I think he was called up to our General Manager's office and she said 'Never, never dance again!'"

As the cancer visibly took its toll on Gary, he still made it onto the set as often as he could. As former 6abc sports anchor Scott Palmer remembered, Gary would give it his all to do the job he loved.

"He was still going to deliver the sports to the sports fans of Philadelphia, the people he loved so much. Nothing made Gary happier than when he broke a story, and he just wanted to keep doing that. It didn't make a difference what he looked like, he was going to give the sports on Channel 6."

Talking about how difficult it will be to move on after Gary's passing, sports team member Keith Russell said it will be a challenge, but "we will give it our best shot because that's what Gary Papa would want us to do."

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SLIDESHOW: The Life and Career of Gary Papa
SLIDESHOW: Run 4 Your Life 2009
SLIDESHOW: Your Text Tributes to Gary Papa
VIDEO: The life and career of Gary Papa. Jim Gardner reports.
VIDEO: Jim Gardner announces the passing of Gary Papa
VIDEO: Gary Papa: The Time of Your Life
VIDEO: Phillies honor Gary Papa with a moment of silence
VIDEO: Greg Papa speaks with Action News about the passing of his brother
VIDEO: More loving memories of Gary from Keith Russell and Jamie Apody
VIDEO: Keith Russell remembers Gary Papa
VIDEO: Jamie Apody remembers Gary Papa
VIDEO: Dave Roberts remembers his time with Gary Papa
VIDEO: Lisa Thomas Laury remembers Gary Papa
VIDEO: Cecily Tynan remembers Gary Papa
VIDEO: Scott Palmer on Gary Papa's death
VIDEO: Irving Fryar remembers Gary Papa
VIDEO: Watch Gary's first report for Action News
VIDEO: Watch Gary's last appearance on Action News
VIDEO: Gary Papa is inducted into the Hall of Fame
VIDEO: Watch classic stories from Gary Papa
VIDEO: Gary talks about his battle with prostate cancer
VIDEO: The lighter side of Gary Papa with Jamie Apody and Keith Russell
VIDEO: Local coaches remember Gary Papa
VIDEO: Phillies fans fondly remember Gary Papa
VIDEO: Parishoners remember Gary Papa at the church his family attends
VIDEO: Pa. Gov. Ed Rendell reacts to Gary's passing
VIDEO: Mayor Michael Nutter on Gary Papa's death
VIDEO: Charles Barkley on Gary Papa's death
VIDEO: Ruben Amaro Jr. on Gary Papa's death
VIDEO: Charlie Manuel on Gary Papa's death
VIDEO: Jeffrey Lurie on Gary Papa's death
VIDEO: Donovan McNabb reacts to Gary's passing
VIDEO: Donovan McNabb's written statement regarding Gary Papa
VIDEO: Jamie Moyer recalls the joys of watching Gary Papa
VIDEO: Sheldon Brown remembers a specific Gary Papa moment
VIDEO: Gary's neighbors in Wayne, Pa. react to his passing
VIDEO: Philadelphians remember Gary Papa
VIDEO: Memories of Gary Papa at Citizens Bank Park
VIDEO: Delaware residents react to Gary Papa's passing
VIDEO: Trenton remembers Gary Papa
VIDEO: Chris Wheeler on Gary Papa's death
VIDEO: Milt Thompson on Gary Papa's death
VIDEO: Larry Anderson on Gary Papa's death
VIDEO: Action News co-workers remember Gary
VIDEO: Local politicians remember Gary Papa
VIDEO: Preperations into Run 4 Your Life, an event that meant so much to Gary
VIDEO: Run 4 Your Life honors Gary Papa

There has been an outpouring of support into WPVI since the community learned of Gary's passing. Below are some of the statements of support that came in to Action News.

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"On behalf of the entire Philadelphia Eagles organization, I am deeply saddened to learn of Gary's passing today. Gary Papa was a centerpiece of sports coverage in the Philadelphia area for many years. I will always remember him for the energy and passion he brought to his profession, especially during some of the toughest times of his battle with cancer. WPVI and the entire Philadelphia region lost an icon today. Our condolences go out to his wife, Kathleen, his two sons, and his entire family at WPVI."

-Eagles Chairman/CEO Jeffrey Lurie

"We are all deeply deeply saddened to learn of the passing today of one of our good friends, Gary Papa. He was a long-time broadcaster who always spoke positively of our organization and brought our teams' highlights into the homes of millions of our fans. Gary was a fighter, he gave it his all. He was one of the good guys. We will always remember him for his passion for sports and his dedication to the sports scene in Philadelphia. Our condolences go out to his wife, Kathleen, his two sons, and his entire family at Action News."

-Comcast-Spectacor Chairman Ed Snider

"I am deeply saddened to hear of the death of popular ABC 6 sports anchor, Gary Papa, following a four year battle with prostate cancer. As a lifelong Philladelphia area sports fan, I have enjoyed watching Gary's lively commentary on our beloved regional teams over the years. I send my heartfelt sympathy to his family and friends in what I am sure is an extremely difficult time."

-Delaware Congressman Mike Castle