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Justin Fishbein, former Sun-Times reporter, dead at 88

Justin Fishbein (second from left) with Sun-Times rewrite men Ben Stegne, Marvin Quinn and Robert Hughes and Assistant Citv Editor Lou Wells in 1956. | Sun-Times Library

Justin Fishbein was the son of a nationally known physician and was taking pre-med courses at Harvard University when he realized what really interested him was writing.

So, with the encouragement of storied journalist Virginia Marmaduke, the first woman to cover hard news for the old Chicago Sun, Mr. Fishbein worked as a police reporter, Springfield reporter and rewrite man from 1949 to 1960 at the Chicago Sun-Times, the Sun’s successor.

“He loved to tell stories,” daughter Amy Fishbein Jackson said of Mr. Fishbein, who died Aug. 19 at 88 of heart disease and respiratory failure at Highland Park Hospital. He also loved being a journalist, she said.

Roy Wiley, a longtime Sun-Times reporter and assistant financial editor, said Mr. Fishbein brought graciousness and thorough reporting to the job.

“He was a good reporter and a great, gracious person,” Wiley said. “He got his facts correct.“

Mr. Fishbein also worked on three books with his nationally known father, Morris Fishbein, who edited the Journal of the American Medical Association from 1924 to 1950 and was the founding editor in 1961 of Medical World News, a magazine for doctors. The books were “Successful Marriage: A Modern Guide to Love, Sex, and Family Life”; “A Question of Competence: Language, Intelligence and Learning to Read”; and “Doctor Fishbein’s International Medical Encyclopedia.”

Mr. Fishbein grew up in Hyde Park, attended Phillips Exeter Academy and graduated from Harvard in 1949. Shortly after graduation, he met his lifelong wife, Marianne Demereckis, on a blind date.

After working at the Sun-Times, he was editor and editorial manager at Science Research Associates in Chicago. In 1976, IBM took over SRA, and he remained with the company through 1993.

Because of Mr. Fishbein’s time as a police reporter, his daughter Anne Marie Fishbein recalled she was “raised by headlines.”

Whenever she asked while she was growing up to do something he didn’t consider safe, he would quote a headline from a story in which a similar incident led to tragedy, she said.

“It always came in the form of a really scary headline,” she said. “I think it made me a more caution person.”

Mr. Fishbein was a fan of newspapers throughout his life and even of the often-criticized architecture of the former Sun-Times Building on North Wabash. He recalled the building, now the site of the Trump hotel, as a place where the newspaper made history, won Pulitzer Prizes and reported the major stories of the time.

“He was very well-informed, up on everything, knowledgeable and gentlemanly,” said Art Aman, who with Mr. Fishbein was a longtime member of the Chicago Newspaper Reporters Association.

Mr. Fishbein also is survived by a son, Morris Daniel Fishbein; five grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren. A memorial service will be held at a later date.