Philomena S. Jurey


Philomena S. Jurey, 91, passed away July 26, 2019, at AristaCare at Hillsdale Park in Hillsdale, Pennsylvania, after a long battle with vascular dementia.
Philomena was born in New Castle, Pennsylvania, on Nov. 28, 1927, to Francis A. and Fortunata Maurno Sparano.
She graduated from New Castle High School in 1945 and was recognized in her high school yearbook for her intelligence. Of the 374 members of her graduating class, she was one of 28 to be listed as an honor roll pupil. She received The Lawrence County Bar Association Award as the senior with the highest rank in the four-year Latin course. Printed beside her senior photo in the yearbook, "Phil," her preferred name: "loafs at Mahoning Branch Library...specializes in language...ambition...foreign correspondent..." Philomena's high school quote was, "It's a grand life!"
She received her Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism at the University of Missouri in 1949 and became a reporter for the daily newspapers in Pulaski and Roanoke, Virginia, until 1952, when she moved to Youngstown, Ohio, and worked until 1958 as a reporter for the Youngstown Vindicator, where she met her future husband, Jack Jurey, who was also a reporter there.
They married in 1955. In 1957, when her husband received a fellowship to study at Harvard, she freelanced for the Boston Globe and worked as a secretary for the Harvard Crimson. The couple moved to Washington, D.C., in 1958 and shortly afterward, she became the "Girl Friday" for the Washington Bureau of the London Daily Telegraph until 1961, covering State Department briefings and writing occasional features.
Philomena began a long and illustrious career with The Voice of America (VOA) in 1961, reaching higher and higher positions as she sought to cope with the death in 1969 of her beloved husband Jack, who was the editorial director of WTOP-TV in D.C. First a news writer and editor, then, in 1971, State Department correspondent, Deputy Chief of the News Division in 1972, and she became, in 1974, the VOA's White House correspondent.
From her tiny office in the press corps area of the White House, she sent out reports heard around the world, covering Presidents Nixon, Ford, Carter and Reagan and traveling around the globe. When she accompanied President Reagan to China, she was swarmed by fans of her reports. The Washington Post wrote, "Jurey was the one media celebrity the Chinese officials wanted to meet."
In 1988, Philomena became the Editor in Chief at the VOA. She served in that position until her retirement in 1989. Her colleagues remember her as a brilliant, judicious and immensely effective journalist who allowed nothing to come between the facts and the reports.
Until her illness prevented her from pursuing her many interest, after her retirement and true to her spirit, Philomena remained active in political and social causes.
She wrote and published three books. The first on in 1995, "A Basement Seat to History: Tales of Covering Nixon, Ford, Carter and Reagan for the Voice of America," detailed her years of covering the White House. Her second, in 2002, "Bella Giornata and Elbow Grease," was a homage to her Italian-American parents and their experiences. The third and final book, "A Living History of the 1960s," published in 2013, was a labor of love as she waded through the over 2,000 editorials her late husband, Jack Jurey, had done for WTOP, giving background on the local, national and international issue with which they dealt, from civil rights and immigration to education and sports.
She also honored her husband by setting up in 1970 the Jack Jurey Memorial Scholarship for journalism students at American University in Washington, D.C.
Philomena was a member of the prestigious Cosmos Club and the recipient of several awards, including the University of Missouri's Honor Medal for Distinguished Service in Journalism in September 1998. The citation commends her for "her dedication to objective and unfettered journalism in the public interest, and her careful and thorough coverage of the White House and Presidency for the world."
And in August 1989, the United States Information Agency recognized her with the Superior Honor Award: "In recognition of outstanding achievement as a VOA writer, editor, manager and White House correspondent, as well as leadership as editor-in-chief,"
Following publication of "A Basement Seat to History," the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library requested donation of her Presidential coverage papers, which she submitted in 1997.
She moved to the Pennsylvania nursing home named above in May 2015, where she was lovingly cared for until her death.
Philomena is survived by her stepdaughter, Diane Conklin, and husband, Joe Mitchell, of Ramona, California; her niece, Marian Abramski Fiscus, and husband, Richard, of Indiana, Pennsylvania; her niece, Patricia Rumbaugh, and husband, Tom, of Takoma Park, Maryland; her nephew, Chuck Abramski III, and wife, Kenna, of Sutersville, Pennsylvania; her niece, Carolyn Abramski, and husband, Joe Vondrick, of Holly Hill, Florida; seven great-nieces and great-nephews, Alex Rumbaugh, Sarah Rumbaugh and fiancee, Zach Mayo, Cassandra Abramski, Kristen Abramski, Adam Fiscus, Ben Fiscus and his wife, Lindsay, and Kaia Abramski; one great-great-niece, Myla Ann Anthony; and one great-great-nephew, Austin Richard Fiscus. Dear friends, Theda Parrish and Dina Fox, also survive as does Philomena's longtime housekeeper and caretaker, Velete Jacob.
There is no visitation. Services are private and will be held at the convenience of the family. Philomena will be buried beside her husband Jack in The Oak Hill Cemetery in Washington, D.C.
Robinson-Lytle, Inc. is in charge of arrangements.
Memorial contributions may be given in memory of Philomena to the charity of one's choice.
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Published on August 5, 2019
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1 posts

Aug 16, 2019
I am very saddened by Phil's passing, but she lived a meaningful and beautiful life. Our mutual friend, Lynn Slovonsky, a fellow journalist and New Castle native, introduced me to Phil after I began working at the Voice of America in 1999. Who would have thought that a fellow native of New Castle, would become one of VOA's most famous global correspondents! Initially, I worked on the "graveyard shift," which precluded me from being socially active. Nonetheless, Phil invited me to participate in many Easter and Christmas dinners at her Cleveland Park home. Somehow, I found a way to squeeze in the time to celebrate with her and her many friends and family. Subsequently, I have climbed the... ladder into a senior position in my own right as director of Current Affairs Programming. Phil was a true inspiration to me. When I learned on August 9 of her passing, I circulated her obituary to as many people at the Voice of America as I thought would remember her. Then, another senior VOA official duplicated and amplified my effort. Today, August 16, I submitted her name to be honored as a trailblazer for a "Women in the Media" event to take place on August 28. I certainly hope my entry on her will be accepted and publicized. I hope the family will find comfort in the many memories of Phil. Phil's work -- her legacy at the VOA and her books, especially "A Basement Seat to History," will live on and inspire many aspiring journalists to emulate Phil's success and contributions to the world. Sincerely, Carol Samuels CastielRead more