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Beth Gillin

Beth Gillin, 78, of Philadelphia, retired national correspondent, news and features reporter, editor, and mentor at The Inquirer for more than three decades, died Tuesday, Jan. 23, of congestive heart failure at her home in Mount Airy.

Ms. Gillin joined The Inquirer in 1968 and became one of its first — and first female — national correspondents. She lived in Long Island for a time in the 1970s and wrote stories for the paper about New York and national issues that amused, educated, and sometimes enraged her readers.

Born in Philadelphia, she moved back in the early 1980s and worked as a news and features reporter, and then an editor for The Inquirer’s features department and Weekend section. She reviewed movies, TV shows, books, and plays, and wrote thousands of stories and columns about AIDS, racism, crime, media, fashion, entertainment, politics, and countless other subjects until she retired in 2005.

Her favorite topic, colleagues said, was the “people beat,” and some of her best work came in stories, both humorous and poignant, about families and relationships in South Philly, Fishtown, and other corners of the city. Other writers called her “one of the great stylists,” and a former colleague said: “She wrote beautifully and seemingly without angst.”

In a 1988 Sunday column called “Mother Guilts,” she wrote about her own life, saying: “The Perfect Mom I’ve stitched together is looking more and more like a Bride of Frankenstein. I’ve concocted her from bits and pieces of old Donna Reed shows, psychology tips from Phil Donahue, recipes by Gourmet, fashion advise from Vogue, and selected passages from the works of Neil Simon. I think I’ll kill her off.”

Energetic and collegial, Ms. Gillin enjoyed the commotion of the newsroom on deadline, and other editors appreciated her relaxing humor once the paper was out. She also liked chasing the big story, and one of her sons recalls waiting patiently in her car after school one afternoon while Ms. Gillin interviewed detectives at a crime scene.

“She was a natural storyteller who drew you into the paper with the characters she found,” a former colleague said.

Gene Foreman, retired Inquirer managing editor, said: “Her reporting was always excellent.”

As an editor, Ms. Gillin was known by younger reporters as “an ally and nurturing, guiding editor.” Everyone called her a jet spray of suggestions that went beyond the obvious angles. “Her ideas,” a former reporter said, “were responsible for some of my best stories.”

She also served as an officer for the Newspaper Guild and represented its members in sometimes testy labor negotiations with management. She became a mentor to practically every woman she met.

“I strove to be just like Beth: shrewd, witty, kind, and one of the best writers the newspaper ever had,” a former reporter said. “She was the gold standard.”

“Marigrace Komarnicki fondly recalls the Iowa pig farmer who stayed for a week in her family’s stately home in Radnor. “After a few days, he was so hungry to be in touch with the land that he begged to mow the lawn,” said Mrs. Komarnicki. (She let him.)”

Beth Gillin's lead to a 1982 story about bed-and breakfast visitors.

Butch Ward, former Inquirer managing editor, said: ”Beth arrived for work with great skill, stubborn passions, and a laugh that carried the room. She just plain cared about her journalism and about her colleagues. … Beth was special.”

Elizabeth Marie Gillin was born March 27, 1945, in Philadelphia. She grew up in Frankford and elsewhere in Northeast Philadelphia, graduated from St. Hubert Catholic High School for Girls, and studied psychology and other subjects at Notre Dame University of Maryland in Baltimore and Rutgers University.

She married Pedro Pombeiro in the early 1970s, and they lived in Brazil and Long Island, and had sons Fernando and Jose. They divorced later.

She worked at the Courier-Post newspaper in Camden and in other jobs before joining The Inquirer. She was smitten by life in the Hawaiian Islands and bought a vacation condo overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Molokai that she enjoyed for years.

She read all the time, doted on her two grandchildren, and embraced the congregation at St. Raymond of Penaforte Catholic Church after she retired. She loved Muffin and her other cats, collected figurines of cows, and contributed often to cat-related charities.

She laughed a lot, friends said, went skydiving at 65, and lived with cancer for more than a year. “If you were around Beth, nothing was ever dull or boring,” a friend said.

“She was funny, always happy and positive,” said her son Fernando. Her son Jose said: “She was an extraordinary person.”

Longtime friend Jeff Schogol said: “She was one of the kindest people I’ve known.”

In addition to her sons, grandchildren, and former husband, Ms. Gillin is survived by a brother and other relatives.

Visitation with the family is to be at 9 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 1, at St. Raymond of Penafort Catholic Church, 1350 Vernon Rd., Philadelphia. A Funeral Mass is to follow at 10 a.m.

Donations in her name may be made to to St. Raymond of Penafort Catholic Church, 1350 Vernon Rd., Philadelphia, Pa. 19150.

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Service/Memorial Information
  • Morning Visitation

    Thursday, February 1st, 2024
    9:00 AM - 10:00 AM

    St. Raymond of Penafort
    1350 E Vernon Road
    Philadelphia, PA 19150

  • Service

    Thursday, February 1st, 2024
    10:00 AM

    St. Raymond of Penafort
    1350 E Vernon Road
    Philadelphia, PA 19150

  • Cemetery

    Thursday, February 1st, 2024

    Holy Sepulchre Cemetery
    3301 West Cheltenham Avenue
    Philadelphia, PA 19150

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