Lou Rabito, 61, of Media, longtime assistant sports editor, former suburban news editor, reporter, and innovative digital producer at The Inquirer, died Thursday, Sept. 7, of metastatic cancer of the appendix at his home.
Mr. Rabito joined The Inquirer in 1989 as assistant sports editor in charge of high school coverage and helped transform the print-only newspaper to a successful digital-first publication. For 15 years, he oversaw a staff of writers, freelance reporters, photographers, and videographers who chronicled sports events practically year-round at more than 100 high schools in Southeastern Pennsylvania and South Jersey.
He was instrumental in the creation of the Rally high school sports section in 2009 and captured thousands of dramatic images as a freelance photographer for The Inquirer and other publications. He also spent a decade as a news editor in the paper’s suburban bureaus and became a digital producer in 2014.
“Lou held many roles in his over 33 years here at The Inquirer,” Gabriel Escobar, editor of the newspaper, said. “One of his many attributes was his ability to organize and deftly manage complex operations — suburban zoning and high school sports, in their heyday, were just two. He was famously upbeat and epitomized collegiality.”
Mr. Rabito won The Inquirer’s Ralph Vigoda Award for outstanding journalism in December 2011, and one of his nominators said: “In a time when we are challenged to combine the old and new media into an interesting and vital package, Lou has come through like a champ.”
Known as a meticulous editor and cool as ice on nightly deadlines, Mr. Rabito was receptive to all kinds of stories and contributed his own articles about topics he considered important. “I trusted him,” said Inquirer staff writer Mike Jensen. “If he thought something different than me, it was always worth figuring out why.”
He had a soft touch with copy, and writers called him “easygoing and encouraging” in hundreds of online tributes. “He helped make my time in Philadelphia one of the most fun chapters of my life,” one said. Another former coworker said: “Newsrooms could have used more Lou Rabitos.”
He displayed photos of his two daughters on his desk and shared stories of his wife and family with anyone who stopped by to chat. Laughter was often heard in his corner of the office. Fellow producer Tommy Rowan said: “Working with him and getting to know him was a gift.”
Mr. Rabito routinely complimented writers for their work before diving into improvements he wanted to suggest. Then he would shepherd them through the story, line by line, poking holes in it and telling them where more reporting was required.
“He was our editor, but teacher was a better title,” said Matt Breen, an Inquirer staff writer who served as an intern with Mr. Rabito in 2011. “He always wanted us to get better, and I still hear his voice when I’m writing.”
Earlier, Mr. Rabito was a copy editor at the Orange County Register and assistant sports editor at the Pasadena Star-News, both in California. He was also a reporter and editor on the United Press International sports desk in New York, and sports editor at the Kendallville News-Sun in Indiana.
His wife, Renee, asked him a few weeks ago how he would like to be remembered, and Mr. Rabito said: “I hope they’ll think of me as a good guy who tried hard to do his best all the time, who wanted the best for others, and who tried to make a difference.”
Born May 10, 1962, in New York, Louis Rabito wanted to be a sports broadcaster or photographer when he grew up. But he thought his New York accent would be a hindrance on the air, so he switched to writing and editing, and freelance photography.
He worked for the paper at New York University and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in communications in 1984. He met fellow journalist Renee Posey in a work-related telephone call in 1987, and they married in 1989. They had daughters Lauren and Jessalyn, and lived in Havertown and Media.
Mr. Rabito especially enjoyed in his role as mentor and participated in many programs that assisted young writers. He coached his daughters on Haverford Township softball teams and was never shy about wearing his New York Yankees and Giants gear to the office in downtown Philly.
He gave family and friends funny nicknames. He was good at math, read James Patterson novels, and became an impressive cook. He doted on his dog Kasey and was close to his sons-in-law Pat Williams and Chuck Gardiner.
He was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer last December but was determined to see the birth of his granddaughter, Victoria Rose Williams, on April 9.
“He was such a talented guy. I was so proud of him, and he was so proud of us,” said his daughter Lauren. His daughter Jessalyn said: “He was a straight-shooter on uncomfortable topics. He was my guiding light.”
Mr. Rabito and his wife celebrated their 34th wedding anniversary on June 10, and she wrote to him on Facebook: “Doing life with you was the best decision I ever made.”
In addition to his wife, daughters, and granddaughter, Mr. Rabito is survived by a sister and other relatives.
The family wishes to thank Dr. Kim Reiss-Binder, Caroline Pratz, P.A., and nurses Lori Redding and Tina Pilkus for their expert care and special bond they shared with Lou and his family during his journey.
Visitation with the family, is from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m., Saturday, Sept. 16, at Sweeney Funeral Home, 209 N. Newtown Street Rd., Newtown Square, Pa. 19073. A celebration of his life is to follow. Friends, and family are invited to join the celebration remotely via livestreaming on the Logan Funeral Home Facebook page. The livestream will begin at 11:30 a.m., on Saturday, Sept. 16.
- Obituary by Gary Miles