Sandra A. Spieczny, 63, of Glassboro, a journalism teacher and a sports copy editor at The Inquirer for more than two decades, died Saturday, March 7, at her home.
Ms. Spieczny was found unresponsive in her living room by Glassboro police, who were called by a family friend when she did not answer the phone. The Gloucester County Medical Examiner's Office said Monday that the cause of death was heart disease.
In a statement released to employees, Stan Wischnowski, vice president of news operations for Interstate General Media, parent of The Inquirer, said the company "lost a terrific journalist and wonderful colleague over the weekend."
"Sandy was a consummate pro who was instrumental in the success of The Inquirer sports report over the past 26 years," Wischnowski said. "She was a passionate editor who made the sports pages sparkle through meticulous fact-checking, brilliant headline writing and tremendous collaboration with our reporters."
Born in Bound Brook, N.J., Ms. Spieczny had lived for the last 20 years in Glassboro. She was a 1969 graduate of Bound Brook High School and earned a bachelor's degree in journalism from Valparaiso (Ind.) University in 1973.
During summers at home from college, Ms. Spieczny wrote for the Somerset Messenger-Gazette, a weekly newspaper in Central New Jersey.
After graduating, her passion for newspaper work led her to teach journalism at Ohio University, Ball State University, and Glassboro State College, now Rowan University. When she first appeared on The Inquirer copy desk, it was in the role of a visiting professor for the summer. Soon afterward, she joined the desk full-time.
"Sandy was a versatile editor who would pitch in wherever she was needed. In addition to copy editing, she often laid out the high school pages or jumped in and produced sports agate," said Jim Swan, deputy sports editor. "Whatever it took to get the edition closed in good order, Sandy lent a capable hand. She will be missed."
Sports editor John Quinn said Ms. Spieczny brought a deep knowledge of ice hockey to the desk and a zest for her home team, the New Jersey Devils.
She also was "a big Notre Dame [football] fan and reveled in telling stories about their glory years in the 1960s," Quinn said.
In addition to her facility with words, Ms. Spieczny knew her way around a kitchen.
"Sandy had a real talent for baking cakes and cookies and making crafts," said Robin Smith, a sports coworker for 20 years. "Whenever a colleague was promoted, you could count on her to bake and come up with a clever decoration, such as the Yankees baseball cake she made for a copy chief from New York, or the cake decorated with toy cowboys and eagles for a football fan and copy editor from Texas.
"She also was a great candy maker and brought in lots of Christmas treats for appreciative coworkers," Smith said.
Ms. Spieczny arranged Super Bowl parties in the sports department, preparing dishes with themes based on the teams' cities, Swan said.
"When the New Orleans Saints were in the Super Bowl, she made po'boys with muffuletta. When the Baltimore Ravens played, it was crabcakes. When the Green Bay Packers played, it was bratwurst," Swan said.
She also had a tremendous green thumb and spent hours tending the vegetable plants in the garden behind her house, said longtime coworker Al Campbell.
She is survived by her mother, Henrietta Olszewski Spieczny. Her father, Walter, died in 2012 at age 92.
A visitation will be held from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, March 11, at the Bridgewater Funeral Home, 707 E. Main St., Bridgewater, N.J. A 10 a.m. Funeral Mass at St. Mary of Czestochowa Church, 201 Vosseller Ave., Bound Brook, will be followed by burial at Resurrection Cemetery, Piscataway, N.J.
Donations may be made to the church at the address above.