Sam Zurlo: Part of Local History

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AMSTERDAM – Sam Zurlo has become a part of local history, covering the town and the Mohawk Valley for decades as a longtime reporter for The Daily Gazette and hosting a radio show on WCSS.

“He was there when the factories moved to cover this story… He covered the creation of the downtown mall and the rebuilding of Amsterdam in the ’70s and’ 80s,” remembers Bob Cudmore, local historian and former host. radio.

Zurlo’s career as a journalist and radio personality spanned over 60 years. He made his radio debut at a small station in Lumberton, North Carolina in 1953 before entering the military and working for the armed forces radio. After his service, he returned to his hometown of Amsterdam and worked at WCSS.

Zurlo became a reporter for The Daily Gazette in the Amsterdam office in 1958 and remained with the newspaper until his retirement in early 1993. Yet he continued to work in radio until his retirement from WCSS at the end of 2017.

Zurlo, who was definitely called a “reporter” by former colleagues, died Monday at the age of 90.

“When I joined the newspaper in 1976, Sam was kind of a legend in the Mohawk Valley. He was based in Amsterdam, ”said Jim McGuire, a former Daily Gazette reporter covering Fulton County. “He’s probably covered the Mohawk Valley better than anyone who has ever claimed to be a journalist. It was a lot of fun working with him. “

Stephen Williams, who retired from the Daily Gazette in June, first met Zurlo while working as a Cub reporter at The Recorder. Although Zurlo was technically a competitor, Williams recalls that the veteran senior reporter was generous in sharing his hard-earned knowledge.

“I was from out of state and knew nothing about Amsterdam. Sam was very patient and kind in answering my questions. He was really easy going and good with young reporters. I got encouragement from Sam at a time when I’m sure I needed it, ”said Williams.

There is no hard feelings for all the times Zurlo has beaten The Recorder newcomers to a story.

“We were constantly picked up by Sam, but it was really good scoops. He attended all school board and city council meetings. He knew the inner workings of Amsterdam city council like no one else,” Williams said. “No matter where you went, it looked like Sam was already there.”

Zurlo seemed to know everyone and enjoyed connecting with people during his radio career, Cudmore recalls.

“He kept in touch with a lot of people, helping them and offering advice and information,” Cudmore said. “I think anyone you talk to will say that Sam was approachable, he was honest and was such a joy to know that. He really made the world a better place to have been.

By all accounts, Zurlo was an accomplished professional who treated callers, sources, and anyone he encountered with respect. Although he never hesitated to tell the whole story.

“He was trying to find out what motivates people. He was not afraid to speak the truth to power. He wasn’t afraid to confront different political leaders over the years about what they were doing and why, ”Cudmore said.

Zurlo’s sources never dried up, McGuire said, because of the way he treated them.

“I had enormous respect for Sam. He only grew over the years as I progressed in journalism and I realized the amount of dedication he had to put into it to make it. its long-standing work, ”said Williams.

U.S. Representative Paul D. Tonko, D-Amsterdam, expressed sorrow upon learning of the death of the longtime journalist who covered him throughout his political career from his early days on the Supervisory Board of Montgomery County.

“Sam has effectively informed and inspired people through the media as a reporter and talk show host. He provided a stage through which people could share their concerns and comments – always leading with respect and dignity, never serving to deny or divide the community, but always to build the area he called his home with a intense passion. This passion will be sorely missed, ”Tonko said in a prepared statement.

While gaining in-depth knowledge of the city throughout his long career, Mayor Michael Cinquanti said Zurlo is now part of local history.

“No one could surpass Sam’s knowledge of all aspects of our city,” said Cinquanti.

His voice was also part of the daily life of many city dwellers during his time at WCSS.

“As soon as he said hello Amsterdam, everyone knew who was there, he didn’t have to say it was Sam Zurlo,” Cinquanti said. “He was a local treasure.

For every resident who thought they knew Zurlo after listening to him on the air for years, Diane Keller, his daughter, said they knew him more or less.

“It was pretty much an open book,” Keller said.

Keller herself listened frequently from her home in Connecticut, broadcasting the radio show online in her later years.

“What a special thing to be able to start your day listening to your dad who is 175 miles from your home, yet still be able to hear him and start your day like that. It was one of my favorite things,” Keller said.

Listeners and readers may not have known her father’s sense of humor in his work. Or the amount of effort he put into researching various topics so that he could have an informed discussion.

“He knew a little or sometimes a lot about everything. In the evening, he said he was going to do his homework. He would do some research so that he was well informed the next day so he could have an intelligent conversation, ”Keller said.

Although he has spent much of his career working multiple jobs to support his wife and children, Keller said family has always been a priority for Zurlo. He was married to his wife, Harriet, for 65 years until his death. They had three children: James Zurlo, Debbie Clements and Keller.

“He was the most amazing father, there was nothing he wouldn’t do for any of the three of us. He worked hard, sometimes working three jobs to make sure we never ran out, ”Keller said. “It didn’t matter if you called in the middle of the night, if you had a problem, daddy was always there, he was 100% your supporter.”

Zurlo was home for dinner most evenings, often coming home from the office before leaving to cover a meeting. In the morning, he accompanied his children to school. Despite the long hours, he always maintained a positive attitude.

“I’ve never heard him speak negatively,” Keller said. “He worked so hard and never complained.”

Keller said he made those close to his children feel like part of the family and was delighted to welcome his grandchildren.

“His family was his pride and joy from his children to his grandchildren. Now he has a great-grandchild, ”Keller said. “It was like the icing on the cake for him.”

“He was a wonderful man,” she added. “He was one in a million. “

A concelebrated Christian burial mass will be held for Zurlo on Friday at 11:30 a.m. at the Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church at 111 Third Ave., Tribes Hill. Interment with military honors will follow at 2:30 p.m. at Gerald BH Solomon, Saratoga National Cemetery.

Parents and friends are invited and can call before mass starting at 9:30 am at the church. Masks are mandatory. In lieu of flowers, contributions in memory of Zurlo can be made to the Montgomery County Office for Aging Foundation.

Contact Ashley Onyon at [email protected] or @AshleyOnyon on Twitter.

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