Rich Funke to retire from WHEC-TV in December after 38 years of service
Posted at: 06/21/2012 4:49 PM | Updated at: 06/21/2012 5:20 PM
Rich Funke, a 44-year veteran of Rochester news and a pioneer in local sports broadcasting announced today that he will retire from News10NBC (WHEC) at the end of December 2012.
Funke, who is 63, made the announcement on the air Thursday, saying, “Forty-four years ago this month, I earned my first paycheck in broadcasting at WBTA radio in Batavia. And I’ve been at it ever since. I don't know where the time has gone. But I do know the time has come to step aside, move into the next phase of my life. My last day on the air will be sometime in December, but in the weeks and months ahead we'll share some stories and revisit some people and places I’ll never forget. We'll celebrate what Rochester has meant not just to me and my family, but to all of us. It's going to be exciting to look for new opportunities to give back to the community I love. I'm retiring from work --not from life.”
Derek M. Dalton, WHEC-TV Vice President and General Manager said, "For 38 years, Rich Funke has meant so much to the News10NBC family and to our viewers. It is rare for a journalist to have the impact within a community that Rich has had in Rochester. It speaks not only to the kind of broadcaster he is, but also to the person he is on and off the air. Rich will always be a part of our News10NBC family and we look forward to him pioneering special projects with us in the future.. We thank him for all that he has done and wish his wife Pat and him much happiness in the future.”
Dalton said the station will launch a nationwide search for Funke’s replacement.
Funke’s career in broadcasting may best be characterized as one of many firsts.
After graduating from Adelphi University in 1971, he was hired by WHAM Radio, where he was first reporter on the scene at Attica Prison riots. In 1972, he moved to WAXC Radio to become News Director as they first signed on the air.
Funke’s first entre into sports broadcasting - where his impact will be remembered for decades - was in September 1974, when he was named sports director at WHEC. He launched a mission to raise the bar for local TV sports coverage - shooting local high school, college, Buffalo Bills, and Syracuse University sports on a regular basis in a big-time way.
Funke served two terms as president of the Rochester Press Radio Club, expanding its scope to include the women's sports luncheon. He broadcast the first high school game, Little Brown Jug, with Fairport vs. East Rochester in 1977.
Leaving Rochester briefly in 1980 after being recruited by WTVJ-TV in Miami, Florida, he won a Florida Emmy for his series on Violence in Sports.
Funke returned to WHEC in 1981, continuing to expand sports, producing numerous specials, convincing the station to pick up Amerk games and the Chase Lincoln Scholarship Basketball Tournament.
He started a series of live broadcasts of high school football and a yearly special on the Section Five champs called the Final 5. He also hosted numerous golf specials on the LPGA, and other local majors including the U.S. Open, Ryder Cup, and PGA Championship.
Funke was the first play-by-play voice for the Rochester Knighthawks. He broadcast the first game from Frontier Field. He did numerous specials from the Bills Super Bowl games, and traveled with Buffalo for a number of seasons.
Funke has won numerous state and local awards. He’s a 4-time winner of the Press Radio Club’s Sportscaster of the year award, winner of the Eddie Meath Community Service award and the Don Holleder award. On a state level, Funke has been honored 5 times by the New York State Broadcasters Association. He was an inaugural member of the Frontier Field Walk of Fame, a member of the Section 5 Football and Basketball Halls of Fame and the Chase Scholarship Basketball Tournament Hall of Fame.
In 1993, Funke returned to news, anchoring the first 5:00p.m. newscast with Donna Dedee, while keeping his Sports Director duties. In 2005, he added anchoring duties for the 11:00p.m. with Jennifer Johnson and in February 2008, anchored the first 7:00p.m. newscast in Rochester, also with Jennifer Johnson.
As busy as his broadcasting career has been Funke has given generously of his time and talents to numerous community organizations.
He has hosted every telethon for Golisano Children's Hospital and some MDA telethons after Gabe Dalmath’s passing. He has maintained a long association with Camp Good Days and Special Times, served on the boards of Ronald McDonald House and Cancer Action and supported several press radio club children's charities.
Through the years Funke has also been at the center of television’s rapid evolution. “When I started, our broadcasts were recorded on film, then on 3/4 inch tape, then half inch, and now no tape at all. I've seen every possible change in TV and social media.”
“I'm blessed to have been in the business at a time when there were just three stations and the newscasts were a staple in every household at 6 and 11,” recalled Funke. “It's a fast-paced, fast-moving business, always has been, but frankly it's a young person’s gig now. It’s time to pass the torch, and spend the time with my wife and grandkids that I missed working nights, holidays and weekends for all those years.
I'm looking forward to the next phase, new challenges and new ways to give back to the community I love and the people who have shown me such incredible support and warmth through the years.”