Broadcasting legend James J. Delmonico is remembered by family, colleagues and friends as much for his compassion and charitable works as for his legacy in the communications field.
Delmonico died Saturday, five days shy of his 92nd birthday.
A former vice president and general manager of the WGY and WGFM radio stations and WRGB television, Delmonico spent the early part of his career at General Electric Co. After five years in manufacturing, he became manager of labor relations for GE at Electronics Park in Syracuse, where he was responsible for the negotiation and administration of the division’s labor contracts as well as the company’s broadcast and cable operations.
He was transferred to Schenectady in 1968, where he was named vice president of both GE Broadcasting and GE Cablevision Corp.
In 1974, he was named vice president and general manager of WGY and WGFM radio stations and WRGB television.
“A lot of broadcasters take and take and put nothing back. Jim Delmonico always had an instinct that said, ‘You’ve got to do more than that,’ ” said William O’Shaughnessy, chairman of The Guardian Fund of the Broadcasters Foundation of America, an organization for which Delmonico served as national president.
“He never saw his lot in life as presiding over a jukebox. He always thought a radio station could build up a community, make it stronger. He understood that; he heard that music; he sang that song, and with it all, he was a nice man,” O’Shaughnessy said.
Delmonico donated his time as a board member for multiple local organizations. He served as a director and vice chairman of the Albany Chamber of Commerce and founded WGY’s Christmas Wish and WRGB’s Melodies of Christmas benefits for local children’s hospitals.
Dick Foreman, owner of Richard A. Foreman Associates in Stamford, Conn., worked with Delmonico at General Electric and also at the Broadcasters Foundation of America. “He was one of the most caring, extremely perceptive and professional people I’ve ever met in my life,” he said. “He always enjoyed life and he just demonstrated it in his caring and the way that he really provided benevolence for others that were less fortunate than him. His whole stewardship in the Broadcasters Foundation from 1991 to 1994 was remarkable. When he took it over, it was minus $20,000 on its balance sheet. Today, that organization provides grants to people that are in need, of over $50,000 a month.”
News anchor Liz Bishop worked for Delmonico at WRGB. “I never met a guy with more ideas, more enthusiasm, who never took ‘no’ for an answer or let anything slow him down when he had a good idea. ... He just had a really larger-than-life personality where you just knew that this was a guy who would get things done. He had great vision.”
Former WRGB news anchor Ernie Tetrault worked for Delmonico for a large part of his career. “I would look back upon it as the most pleasing part of my career,” he said. “I was such a fortunate person to have a job that I loved and work for a guy that I loved. He was just one of the nicest people that I’ve ever known.”
Delmonico retired as president and general manager of WRGB television in 1987 and returned to his hometown, Syracuse. He was inducted into the New York State Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 2005.
After his retirement, Delmonico kept up with the broadcasting industry. He communicated with the grandchildren via iPad and up until a few days before he died, he drove a convertible, said son Joel Delmonico.
“He was a bigger-than-life kind of guy who was extremely important in the lives of his kids and grandchildren. He always made them feel how important they were and how much he was proud of their successes,” he said.
A calling hour will be held from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. today at Blessed Sacrament Church in Syracuse, with a funeral Mass to follow at 10:30 a.m.