Martin S. Zadravec
Martie Zad, who spent 53 years on The Washington Post staff, rising from part-time sports copy boy to sports editor and who also served on teams that developed some of the paper’s first electronic editing systems, died May 15 at his home in Silver Spring, Md. He was 89.
The cause was a heart ailment, said his son, Martin R. Zadravec.
When Mr. Zad retired in 2004, he had been one of The Post’s longest-serving editors. He joined the sports section while attending the University of Maryland and spent several years as a reporter before being named executive sports editor in 1962.
He ran the section for about a decade and was instrumental in hiring young writers who went on to distinguished journalism careers, including Thomas Boswell, William Gildea, Leonard Shapiro, Ken Denlinger, David DuPree, Robert Fachet, Andrew Beyer, Shelby Coffey III, Mark Asher, and Kenneth Turan.
Mr. Zad was named news editor for systems in 1974 and, after the pressman’s strike of 1975-76, he helped spearhead the transition from hot type to coldtype printing systems.
He spent nearly the last two decades of his career as an assistant editor of the TV Week section, where his duties included writing features and describing the latest video and DVD releases.
In addition to his work at The Post, he also spent about 20 years as a Washington-area special correspondent for Sports Illustrated magazine.
Martin Stephen Zadravec was born in Bridgeport, Conn., on Aug. 25, 1927, to immigrants from Slovenia. He was a promising high school football player and, after Navy service during World War II, he entered the University of Maryland on an athletic scholarship. He graduated in 1952 with a journalism degree and also was sports editor at the campus newspaper.
His surname was shortened soon after he arrived at The Post because it routinely appeared in the paper with different spellings — the result of typesetting gone awry. Taking a nonnegotiable stance, sports editor Luther “Bus” Ham said to him, “From now on, it’s Zad.”
In 1956, Mr. Zad married Katharine Elson, a poet and teacher who wrote the Anne’s Reader Exchange column in The Post for 30 years until her death in 1989.
Besides his son Martin, of Silver Spring, survivors include five other children, Georgina “Gina” White and Elizabeth “Lisa” Zadravec, both of Sterling, Va., Karen Zadravec of Gaithersburg, Md., Sarah McDonald of South Riding, Va., and Stefanie McWatters of Brooklyn, N.Y.; two sisters; a brother; 10 grandchildren; and a great-grandson.
Mr. Zad worked closely with Post sportswriter Shirley Povich over the decades and met many of the great athletes and writers of his era. But the anecdote he often liked to tell, at his own expense, involved his one known interaction with royalty.
In 1957, Mr. Zad was introduced to Queen Elizabeth II of England at a reception line the evening before she visited the University of Maryland to watch a game of American football.
“The queen told me she was going to the game but didn’t know much about football,” he recounted in The Post 50 years later. “I knew she was sitting with the president of the university and told her, ‘If he stands, you stand.’ I probably shouldn’t have said that.”
Family and friends will be received at The Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament, 3630 Quesada Street, NW Washington, DC 20015, on Monday, May 22, 2017 from 10:30 until time of Funeral Mass at 11:00 AM.
Memorial Donations may be to the Martin Zadravec Target Scholarship, Target Community & Education Services, Inc., 111 Stoner Ave., Westminster, MD 21157.