February 02, 1927 - April 14, 2012
AS POSTED IN THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE
Chicago Tribune reporter known for watchdog work against corruption, Mafia, drugs
April 15, 2012|By Erin Meyer, Chicago Tribune reporter
Robert Wiedrich was one of the original watchdog reporters who went after Chicago's corrupt politicians and mobsters.
The Tribune reporter and columnist exposed mob enterprises and police corruption and went on to become one of the most influential newspapermen of his time.
"He was just a watchdog himself. He knew what was going on," former Tribune Publisher Stanton R. Cook said. "He was a fine reporter and a gentleman."
Mr. Wiedrich, 85, died Saturday, April 14, at Our Lady of Resurrection Hospital in Chicago of respiratory failure after a prolonged illness, family members said.
Over a four-decade journalism career, Mr. Wiedrich covered police scandals, insurance company fraud, nursing home irregularities and crime syndicates. In an effort to expose the poor conditions patients were being subjected to, he once had himself committed to a mental institution.
James Strong, a former Tribune labor writer and City Hall reporter, said Mr. Wiedrich thrived on the challenges of outsmarting the competition and scrambling to meet deadlines.
"In addition to his reputation of exposing Chicago's mob activities and political chicanery, he was noted for his swift writing on the recurring deadlines," Strong said. "He had his hand in every major Chicago crime story or disaster for at least three decades."
Mr. Wiedrich was born in Chicago and grew up during the Depression. He enlisted in the military as a young man and served as a sergeant in Europe during World War II.
"No. 1, he was a beautiful writer. No. 2, he was an amazing father, and No. 3, he was an excellent husband," said Mr. Wiedrich's wife of 50 years, Margery.
When he returned from the war, Mr. Wiedrich landed a job with the City News Bureau of Chicago, where he worked for two years before joining the Tribune staff in 1950.
He worked in the neighborhood news section and covered local government until 1954, when he became a general assignment reporter.
Mr. Wiedrich left one of his most indelible marks on journalism early in his career with coverage of the Our Lady of the Angels school fire that killed 92 children and three nuns in 1958 his colleagues said.
"He wrote (the stories) in such a dramatic way that people never forgot it," retired Tribune reporter William Sluis said. "Tears still welled in Bob's eyes when he recalled the bodies of small kids being carried down ladders by firemen and the scene at a makeshift morgue where parents came to identify them."
In 1968, Mr. Wiedrich was named the writer of the Tribune's Tower Ticker, a gossip column. Then, after about 15 years of writing columns, he became associate metropolitan editor in 1983 to work with the Tribune's investigative reporting team.
Visitation: Map to Cicero Ave Chapel