HARTFORD, Conn. – Steve Feica, a news director at AM radio stations in Connecticut in the 1970s who went on to a nearly 30-year career as a broadcast editor with The Associated Press, has died. He was 72.
The Bridgeport native died from a suspected heart attack Friday at his home in Fairfield, his daughter, Danielle Santos Da Silva, said Monday. He had spent recent months recovering from a staph infection.
Feica joined the AP in New York City in 1979 and later worked at bureaus in Boston and Washington, D.C., before returning to Connecticut in 1985. The early morning broadcast stories and news minutes he wrote were read daily on AP member radio and television newscasts across the state. And, as the person who answered most of their phone calls, he was the voice of the Hartford bureau to members for years.
"Steve combined a sense of calm and humor, with an ability to quickly distill the most complicated breaking news story to its essence," said Pat Eaton-Robb, an AP sports and news reporter in Hartford. "He was a mentor to dozens of young staffers and it's no accident that many of them are now leaders in the AP."
Known for his wit, warmth, compassion and love of an after-work drink, Feica attended the University of Bridgeport and later embarked on a career in AM radio news. Feica's radio days, when he used the name Steve Thomas on air, included stints as news director at both WWCO in Waterbury and WNVR in Naugatuck between 1973 and 1979.
"Steve was just one of these guys — he knew journalism, he knew reporting," said Steve Martin, a longtime broadcaster who worked with Feica at WWCO. "Steve had an instinct. He knew where to get the news. And he was an extremely good writer for broadcast."
Martin recalled returning from a Waterbury city meeting and telling Feica that officials would not let him record for radio.
"His head just about exploded," Martin said. "He said, 'Do they understand this is a public meeting, the First Amendment?' He just wasn't going to tolerate it. Steve straightened it out."
At the AP in Hartford, Feica played vital roles in covering major news across Connecticut. He said one event in particular stood out to him — the 1987 collapse of the L'Ambiance Plaza residential tower in Bridgeport during construction that killed 28 workers.
"The reason it stands out is that it represents the epitome of member cooperation and is a great example of how AP mobilizes very quickly to cover a major news event, no matter where it is," he said in an interview with The Laurel Connecticut website just before he retired in 2009.
"At heart, I'm still a guy who loves local broadcast news," he added. "I will miss most my daily contact with the radio and TV folks who have been so important in defining what I do."
Santos Da Silva, his daughter, said there will be no funeral, as per his wishes. She said a memorial party is being planned for the summer.