Richard L. Kearney Sr., 93, of Havertown, a pioneering cameraman from the earliest days of Philadelphia television and before that a World War II veteran who rescued sailors from a Navy destroyer that blew up off the New Jersey coast, died of lymphoma Monday, Oct. 1, at home.

From 1950 to 1990, he worked at WCAU with legendary TV personalities such as Ed McMahon, John Facenda, and Gene London.

Mr. Kearney helped to innovate an early version of instant reply using the station's first videotape machine for the 1963 Army-Navy football game broadcast and subsequent coverage of the Eagles at Franklin Field.

Philadelphia Inquirer article from Jan. 16, 1944, reports on Richard L. Kearney’s heroism in rescuing sailors from a Navy destroyer that exploded off the coast of New Jersey.
Kearney Family
Philadelphia Inquirer article from Jan. 16, 1944, reports on Richard L. Kearney’s heroism in rescuing sailors from a Navy destroyer that exploded off the coast of New Jersey.

Before his TV days, he was recognized for heroism when he rushed to the aid of injured sailors from the destroyer Turner after it sustained a series of explosions near Sandy Hook and sank on Jan. 3, 1944.

He and a companion "swam through a whirling snowstorm and icy waters to tow three painfully burned crew members of the Turner, who were on a raft. The men had been blown into the water when the Turner exploded," the Inquirer reported. Mr. Kearney had been temporarily assigned to the Brooklyn Navy Yard and was on liberty in the area when the accident occurred, said son Michael.

Richard L. Kearney Sr., who died on Oct. 1, served in the U.S. Navy during World War II.
Kearney Family
Richard L. Kearney Sr., who died on Oct. 1, served in the U.S. Navy during World War II.

Richard Laurence Kearney was born in a home at 1949 N. Park Ave., property that is now part of the Temple University campus. He was attending La Salle College High School when he enlisted in the Navy. He switched to Brown Preparatory School, then reported for active duty after graduating in 1943 at age 17.

He served on a submarine chaser before the Turner incident, then aboard the Thaddeus Parker in the Pacific. After the war, he took his experience as a sonar operator and earned an associate of technology degree from Temple. During this time, he also served several years with the Pennsylvania National Guard.

In 1950, he married Angie Luongo, whom he had met at St. Madeleine Sophie Roman Catholic Church in West Mount Airy. They recently celebrated their 68th wedding anniversary.

He started working at WCAU when the CBS affiliate was still broadcasting from its original studio at 1622 Chestnut St. in Center City. After the station moved to Bala Cynwyd, Mr. Kearney moved his family from West Oak Lane to Havertown.

His career included working remote broadcasts of the Athletics when they were still a Philadelphia baseball team. He was part of live broadcasts of the Philadelphia Orchestra from the Academy of Music.

Based on his reputation, Mr. Kearney received assignments to work at national sporting events for CBS, including the 1981 Masters Tournament, for which he and his team won an Emmy award.

In 2015, he was inducted into the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia Hall of Fame.

Mr. Kearney was a member of the Philadelphia Council of the Navy League of the United States, serving as vice president and a director, and a member of the Destroyer Escort Sailors Association.

In addition to his wife and son, he is survived by sons Richard and Dennis; seven grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren.

His funeral was Tuesday, Oct. 9.

Contributions may be made to the Navy League of the United States, Philadelphia Council, 81 Holland Rd., Holland, Pa. 18966, or the Broadcast Pioneers of Philadelphia, Box 2886, Bala Cynwyd, Pa. 19004.