I'm surprised no one has posted anything about this. He grew up in my part of New York State, and always spoke of the area (and his father) very fondly. His death was definitely a shock, but he seemed like he was burning the candle at both ends. When I first heard about his death, I thought: "Heart Attack".
Of all of the talking heads and pundits out in TV Land, this guy was a true class act. He died doing what he loved. If we all could all go out that way.
Here's a piece on his passing from his local (Buffalo) paper:
Buffalo’s Tim Russert, an acclaimed newsman, dies of heart attack
Buffalo flags fly at half-staff as city mourns the death of Tim Russert
‘Meet the Press’ moderatorstayed rooted in Buffalo
By Maki Becker - News Staff Reporter
Updated: 06/14/08 8:36 AM
Tim Russert — who put the world’s most powerful people on the hot seat on NBC’s enormously influential “Meet the Press” while managing to stay true to his modest yet proud South Buffalo roots — died unexpectedly Friday after collapsing in NBC News’ Washington bureau. He was 58.
The Emmy-winning newsman had been recording voice-overs for Sunday’s program when he was stricken.
He was rushed to Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, where resuscitation efforts were unsuccessful, Dr. Michael Newman, his physician, told NBC News.
Tom Brokaw, the former anchor of “NBC Nightly News,” broke into regular network programming Friday afternoon with the shocking announcement.
“It is my sad duty to report this afternoon that my friend and colleague Tim Russert, the moderator of “Meet the Press” and NBC’s Washington bureau chief, collapsed and died early this afternoon,” Brokaw said.
“Tim was a true child of Buffalo and the blue-collar roots in which he was raised,” Brokaw said, his voice cracking with emotion at times. “For all the success, he was always in touch with the ethos of that community.”
“I think I can invoke personal privilege to say this news division will not be the same without his strong, clear voice,” Brokaw continued. “He’ll be missed as he was loved — greatly.”
NBC News reported an autopsy revealed that Russert had died as a result of cholesterol plaque rupturing an artery, causing sudden coronary thrombosis. He also had an enlarged heart.
Russert had been diagnosed with coronary artery disease, NBC said, but he had it under control with medication and exercise. He had performed well on a stress test in late April, his doctor told NBC.
Brokaw noted that Russert had been working especially hard this campaign season — which he loved. “He worked to the point of exhaustion, not just on ‘Meet the Press,’ but on MSNBC and with our colleague Brian Williams, of course, during the debates and on special coverage on ‘NBC Nightly News,’ ” Brokaw said.
The nation mourned Russert’s unexpected passing, and he drew admiring words from the politicians he skewered in his interviews.
President Bush remembered him as “a tough and hardworking newsman” who was “always well informed and thorough in his interviews. . . . And he was as gregarious off the set as he was prepared on it.”
Sen. Barack Obama, the presumed Democratic presidential nominee, called him “not only a journalist but a friend.” He continued: “There wasn’t a better interviewer in TV, not a more thoughtful analyst of our politics, and he was also one of the finest men I knew.”
Sen. John McCain, the presumed Republican nominee, recalled Russert as “truly a great American who loved his family, his friends, his Buffalo Bills and everything about politics and America.”
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N. Y., said Russert “had a love of public service and a dedication to journalism that rightfully earned him the respect and admiration of not only his colleagues but also those of us who had the privilege to go toe to toe with him.”
Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N. Y., noted that “just about every American thought he was part of their family, sitting around the kitchen table on Sunday mornings, talking about the country and its politics.”
“NBC Nightly News” devoted its entire evening broadcast to paying homage to Russert. MSNBC ran around-the-clock memorial coverage. Russert’s death was the top news story on every other cable news show.
But nowhere was Russert’s passing felt harder or deeper than in Buffalo, where he was born May 7, 1950.
When Russert’s father, Timothy J. Russert Sr., who was immortalized in “Big Russ/Father and Son: Lesson of Life,” learned his famous broadcasting son had died, the 83-year-old retired truck driver broke down in tears. His son’s death came at an especially heartbreaking time — two days before Father’s Day.
He was in the Orchard Park assisted living facility, where his son had helped him to move just a week ago.
“Big Russ knows his son died. He’s crying right now,” said Joseph Passafiume, the son of Jean Passafiume, Big Russ’ companion for three decades.
Breaking the news to Big Russ were his daughter Kathryn, the last of Tim Russert’s siblings living in Western New York, and Michael Shea, a family friend.
“Kathy and Mike are with Big Russ,” Joseph Passafiume said. “Kathy’s also taking it bad. . . . My mom’s completely heartbroken.”
Mayor Byron W. Brown ordered flags on city property lowered to half-staff.
Russert was famous for peppering his interviews with tidbits from his past in Buffalo and, during football season, often ended his shows with an unwaveringly optimistic “Go Bills!”
Russert grew up in a tight-knit, Irish-Catholic neighborhood in South Buffalo. He attended Canisius High School. The Rev. James P. Higgins, president of the elite high school, called Russert “unquestionably our most accomplished and conspicuous alumnus in 138 years.”
He went on to John Carroll University, becoming the first member of his family to attend college, and Cleveland- Marshall College of Law, but returned to New York, where he began his career in politics. He served as Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s chief of staff and was Gov. Mario M. Cuomo’s press secretary, before he turned to the news business.
He had been host of “Meet The Press” since 1991, making him the longest-serving moderator of the NBC news show.
Russert won an Emmy in 2005 for his coverage of President Ronald Reagan’s funeral. Earlier this year, Time magazine named him one of the most influential people in the world.
Russert is survived by his wife, Maureen Orth, a Vanity Fair writer he met at the 1976 Democratic National Convention, and their son, Luke. The Russerts recently had traveled to Italy to celebrate Luke’s graduation from Boston College.
Funeral plans were pending Friday. Whether burial would be in Washington, D.C., or Buffalo was unclear.