Robert “Bob” Comstock — a legendary New Jersey reporter and journalist, who moved to Westport nearly 20 years ago to be near his daughter and grandsons — died earlier this month, from complications of COVID-19. He was 93.
He was active here in the Unitarian Church and Y’s Men. But many Westport friends may not have known of his background.
He was editor of The Record for more than a decade; press director for Governor Brendan Byrne; associate professor at Rutgers University, and a public relations executive.
According to The Record:
Described by one former reporter as running The Record’s newsroom with “an iron fist and a velvet glove,” Comstock oversaw the newspaper in the pre-internet age when print was still king. His tenure at the helm of the paper covered everything from the Iran hostage crisis to President Ronald Reagan being shot to the Challenger space shuttle explosion and the Iran-Contra scandal of the late 1980s.
Former governor Tom Kean called Comstock “a first class guy. He did a tremendous job for the paper and the state. He was not a Republican, so we had some disagreements along the way. But always in friendship. You could disagree with him/ But you never lost respect for him.”
A New York City native, his mother had come to the US from Australia to tour on the the vaudeville circuit with her sister and parents. His father was an insurance salesman during the depression.
After graduating from Ridgewood High School he joined the Navy, shortly before World War II ended. He then attended Rutgers as a journalism major. Doing presswork for summer stock theater in Corning, New York he worked withBurt Lahr, Kim Hunter, June Havoc, Zasu Pitts and Jerry Orbach.
At The Record, former columnist John Cichowski said, “He was the political editor and a damn good one. He had such insights into how politics worked. Who all the movers and shakers were. He was able to straddle those boundaries between how to present the news objectively, yet still use the solid contacts with these people.”
Stints with Byrne, Rutgers and in public relations followed. Comstock was a member of the NJ Public Broadcasting Authority, the NJ Committee for Humanities, the advisory committee on Judicial Conduct of the NJ Supreme Court, and a trustee of the Bergen Museum of Art and Science.
Comstock was predeceased by his wife Barbara Corner Comstock, to whom he was married for 59 years, and sister Doris Auger. He is survived by daughter Kate Comstock Davis; son Eric Taylor Comstock; grandsons Alexander, Benjamin and Theodore Davis; his son, Eric Taylor Comstock, and his sister, Margot Comstock Tommervik.
A memorial celebration will be held in the fall. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the ACLU or Rutgers University Scholarship Fund.
(Click here for Bob Comstock’s full obituary.)