Richard Needham, who served as Editor of SKI longer than anyone in the 75-year history of America’s largest and oldest ski magazine, died in Sarasota, Florida on December 12, at the age of 73.
Cause of death was complications from open heart surgery.
Needham served as SKI’s Editor over 20 years, from 1974 to 1994.
“In Dick Needham, the skiing community has lost a good friend,” said filmmaker Warren Miller. “Dick Needham was the steward of several different ski publications. I enjoyed his expertise while we were skiing together to test skis in Vail years ago and I enjoyed his company while driving my Hobie 33 along the coast of Malibu after Los Angeles trade shows. Dick helped solve a lot of controversies that skiing created – to what was the best solution at the time. Sometimes the ski industry had a potential problem they didn’t even know they had yet and Dick solved in advance. Dick and I were close friends for many years – I sure hope he is off skiing somewhere!”
Needham first joined the magazine’s staff in New York in 1972, after editorial posts at Saturday Review and financial publishing. A lifelong sailor, he wrote for Yachting.
In 1978 he edited SKI Magazine’s Encyclopedia of Skiing, published by Harper & Row. He authored Ski, Fifty Years in North America, 230 pages of color photography and histories, celebrating SKI’s 50th anniversary. He wrote and produced the book Ski Fever for Warren Miller Productions.
“Dick Needham edited SKI during the ultimate years of magazine publishing’s golden age,” said John Fry, President of the International Skiing History Association, who preceded Needham as SKI’s Editor. “Circulation and advertising numbers peaked. He shepherded SKI through the great eras of Olympic and World Cup racing, freestyle, the building of giant ski resorts.”
Keenly interested and concerned about the learning experience of children, Needham in 1980 launched a national program, SkiWee, to raise the standards of ski instruction for kids at resorts across the country, using the pages of SKI to promote the program.
After retiring from SKI, he successfully edited the popular monthly newsletter Ski Tracks from 1996 to 2002. He then took over as Editor of Skiing Heritage, the official magazine of the International Skiing History Association (ISHA) and of the U.S. National Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame, which he edited for the next eight years. He remained with ISHA as a director on the non-profit’s board.
From 1978 to 1983, he wrote and hosted two radio series, Ski Spot for CBS Radio in New York, and On the Slopes for Audio-TV Features from 1984 to 1987.
Among honors, he received the Lowell Thomas Award for excellence in ski journalism, and ISHA’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
For the last 10 years he was editor of Arthritis Advisor, a newsletter of the Belvoir Media Group.
Needham’s love for alpine skiing began in 1957 at Caberfae, Michigan, where he was unceremoniously shoved down a slope by a college friend. Surviving that initiation, he went on to ski more than 90 mountains in 14 countries.
He wrote articles as diverse as “The Trashing of Lake Placid,” summer skiing in Portillo, and interviews with Robert Redford and Truman Capote. In all he contributed more than a hundred articles to SKI through the years
Needham was born 1939 in Cleveland, Ohio, where he grew up. He was president of his high school class, then attended Denison University where he had his own jazz radio show. He graduated with a degree in economics.
At the University of Missouri he earned an MA in journalism. From 1961 to 1965, he served four years as a Lieutenant in the U.S. Navy. He was aboard one of the ships engaged in the Cuban Naval Blockade.
Dick is survived by his loving wife Irene Needham; daughter Margaret Purdy of Setauket, NY; sons Rick of San Jose, CA and Trevor of Silver Spring, MD; and grandchildren Daria, Kayla, and Jack of NY; Dessa of CA; and Hayley and Jared of MD.
Services are to be held at 11:30 am on Monday Dec. 17, at the Church of St. Patrick, 7900 Bee Ridge Rd., Sarasota followed by a burial at 1:30 pm at Sarasota National Cemetery, 9810 State Road 72, In lieu of flowers please contribute to the International Skiing History Association, 610 Palms Ave., PO Box 191, Ishpeming MI 49849; or Resurrection House, 507 Kumquat Court, Sarasota FL 34236, where Dick volunteered.