MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Former TV-6 anchor and news director Carl Zimmermann died on Friday afternoon, April 11th. He was 96 years old.
Zimmermann joined WITI-TV in 1959. His reign at the station spanned seven presidencies.
Zimmermann hired Lil Kleiman to be the other person in the WITI newsroom. Years later, he hired Jill Geisler -- at first wanting her to be a sportscaster. Remember, it was a time when women were not mainstream.
"I learned more from Carl in my first six weeks than I learned in four years of journalism school and two years of radio," said Kleiman.
"He didn't look at it as all that unusual. Carl was all about wanting you to do your job," said Geisler. "He was a tough interviewer. He wanted to know that you were going to work as hard as he was. And if you met those standards, he really didn't care gender, ethnicity."
Zimmermann hired Joanne Williams to be Community Relations Director, involving TV-6 with community projects.
"He wanted you to get the facts," said Williams. "He wanted you to get them first, but he wanted you to get them right. So he was a true journalist. He was also very community involved."
Zimmermann did not start that journalistic journey at TV-6 however. He was a war correspondent during World War II, working with Edward R. Murrow and Eric Sevareid. While in Europe, Zimmermann was awarded a Bronze Star for frontline radio reporting. Eventually, the Army sent Zimmermann to the Pentagon where he produced the Army television program, The Big Picture.
That was a serious start to a strong career, but those who remember Zimmermann remember another side.
"Carl used to walk into the newsroom and say, 'Hey what time does the six o'clock news come on everyone?' That was the newscast he was anchoring. But there was something about his voice saying it, the voice of authority that made it funny every single time," said Geisler.
A graduate of South Division High School and a product of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Zimmermann's passions centered around his wife, Doree, his five children, four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Zimmermann's other passion -- civic groups such as the Milwaukee Boys and Girls Club, the Salvation Army and the St. Francis Children's Center.
"It was always good to know that Carl was around. Because it sort of made everything right. He was like Walter Cronkite. When they said if Walter Cronkite was on the air and said everything was alright, then it was alright. If Carl was on the news and said everything was alright, then it's okay," said Joanne Williams.
Wisconsin Court of Appeals Justice Ralph Adam Fine worked for Zimmermann as a reporter. He sums it up as he remembers the silver-haired man who was a fatherly influence to many.
"Well, I can tell you that it's now 2014, that I know of nobody in Milwaukee since I've been here, and I came here in 1970, who had more respect in the community and somebody who loved Milwaukee and who had Milwaukee's interest as the premiere interest in his own life than Carl," said Justice Fine.
In fall of 2011, Zimmermann was part of the Stars and Stripes Honor Flight to Washington, D.C. His son tells FOX6 News, Zimmermann's health started to slowly deteriorate shortly after that.
Well after his retirement, Zimmermann was still welcomed back inside the walls of FOX6 as both anchor-emeritus and a mentor for some of the station's staff he hired.
Carl Zimmermann, the Silver Fox, TV pioneer, Milwaukee treasure, dead at the age of 96. He will be missed.
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