Wednesday, February 25, 2015
Richard Z. Chesnoff, a longtime Westporter and prize-winning foreign correspondent and news analyst with more than 50 years experience—much of it in Israel and the Arab world -– died Feb. 21 in Riverdale, N.Y. following a brief illness. He was 77.
He was widely regarded as one of the most respected and knowledgeable journalists covering the Middle East. Early in his career, he was as a reporter for NBC News and the International Herald Tribune before becoming the bureau chief in Paris for Newsweek and later executive editor of Newsweek International.
He also served as senior correspondent of US News & World Report and op-ed columnist for the New York Daily News. He was a contributing columnist for The Huffington Post and regularly appeared on CNN and Fox News.
He spent many years in the Philippines as the honored guest of President Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos, later becoming the first reporter to interview Col. Moammar Gadhafi after the United States bombed Libya in 1986.
The author of several well-received books, including “If Israel Lost The War” with Ed Klein and Robert Littell, “Philippines, Pack of Thieves,” and “The Arrogance of the French.”
The last one ironic only because he was a passionate Francophile, and lived in France for many years, first in Paris, and later renovating a medieval stone house in the ancient village of Saint-Siffret, in the Gard region of southern France.
He was a raconteur, bon vivant, music and theater-lover; he loved beautiful things, and filled his New York apartment with collections, from paintings, to birdcages, to antique Santos statues, lovingly curated from all over the world.
A Renaissance man, he spoke English, French, Hebrew and Yiddish, attending the Hebrew University at age 18, which led to a lifelong love of Israel.
He was a contributor to the Hebrew University and the Metropolitan Opera, and punctuated his life with gusto and laughter, loving nothing more than entertaining people with his encyclopedic knowledge of Jewish jokes, which led to him performing as part of Old Jews Telling Jokes on YouTube.
Born June 2, 1938, he was the son of Lewis and Martha Chesnoff of Paterson, N.J.
He is survived by his brothers Robert and David Chesnoff, sisters-in-law Mimi Zeltner and Diana Chesnoff, son Adam Chesnoff and daughter-in-law Lissa, grandchildren Benjamin and Nathaniel, and stepson Ian Warburg and daughter-in-law Jane Green of Westport, and grandchildren Max, Henri, Harry, Tabitha, Nate and Jasper, and stepson Paul Warburg and daughter-in-law Shannon, and grandchildren Ella and Honor.
Services were held Feb. 22 at the Riverside Memorial Chapel in New York City.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made in his memory to The American Friends of the Hebrew University, One Battery Park Plaza, 25th Floor, New York, NY 10004.
Stepson Ian Warburg of Westport submitted the following eulogy:
We celebrate the life and adventures of my stepfather, Richard Z. Chesnoff, who died very early this morning (Feb. 21) following a brief illness.
Richard was many things to many people. To some, perhaps many, he could be a holy handful at times, exacting and impatient. To others, and perhaps more, he was great fun.
A lifelong and award winning journalist, celebrated for his vast and deep knowledge of the Middle East, Richard was a deeply curious man, always eager to get the story behind and beneath the story. During his more than 50 years of global reporting he got to, and interviewed, some of the world’s most noted, elusive and notorious people, including terrorists and despots, Ahmed Jibril and the late Moammar Gadhafi among them.
Richard worked on air and in print, holding senior positions with, and contributing to, Newsweek, the Daily News, US News and World Report, The Jewish World Report, The Huffington Post, CNN and Fox News, among others.
He was also the author of five books, four of which were published: “If Israel Lost The War,” “Philippines, Pack of Thieves,” and “The Arrogance of The French.” One book about Imelda Marcos, written while we lived in Manila, was not published, perhaps out of friendship for the Marcos family, who he came to know quite well during the height of their tenure as president and first lady of the Philippines.
Richard loved to explore the world, and delighted in traveling to far flung places, eating bizarre delicacies and haggling for goods in local markets. Over the years, this kid from Patterson, N.J. got around, living in Israel, France, Switzerland, the Philippines and more. And the list of countries and cities he visited, and stories he covered, too long and too many to list.
He loved music and culture and was always busy taking in performances great and small. Among his more recent finds was the wonderful Mira Stroika , who generously serenaded him at his bedside at Mount Sinai Hospital recently.
Richard loved family, and adored traditions, delighting particularly in Jewish holidays.
As tough and serious as he could be and often was, he had an impish and childlike streak, often revealed when he hung in the presence of his grandchildren, and other young folk. He loved a good joke and even told a couple on YouTube https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=GYy_cH9a3kc
Richard was many, many things and among them, he was my step-father. And, truth be told, he could be very difficult and a real pain in the ass. But more than anything, he was well meaning, caring and concerned. I am enormously grateful to have had him in my life and am thankful for the many extraordinary experiences we shared, and I had, as the direct consequence of his being in the mix. Much of the good and interesting in me, and much of the broad and global perspective I’ve come to have is thanks to him. I miss him already, but carry him, and many wonderful memories, deep within me.
May he rest In peace.
Posted 02/25/15 at 01:44 PM Permalink