Romancing with the write stuff

Romancing with the write stuff

Francie Weinman grew up on the South Side of Chicago, and in Skokie, Ill. She attended Washington University in St. Louis and finished her degree at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern. During her senior year, her women’s journalism group was touring a local radio station, ABC affiliate WLS, and as she watched the disc jockey and news writer through the large glass window, she saw a mouse run across the floor. "The newsman began chasing the wild mouse with a broom," Francie recalls, "and at some point our eyes met in amusement." When Francie began dating a graduate student, she was surprised to discover he was the roommate of the young man she’d seen at the station.

Stuart Schwartz had also grown up in Chicago, but on the North Side, and had also attended Medill. While still an undergraduate he’d begun working at WLS as a news writer (which is where he first encountered Francie), and after receiving his master’s, he joined the Illinois-National Guard.

Francie, meanwhile, found a job at WLS TV as a newsroom assistant, and six months after she started, Stuart came in for an interview and saw her near the entrance. He was hired as a news writer and ended up sitting right behind Francie.

"Our chairs actually touched," Francie says.

"Yes, and they later got married and had baby stools," Stuart jokes.

He and Francie grew so comfortable around each other, that it was natural for them to attend the annual network correspondents’ party together in December of 1967. "That was our first official date," Francie says.

Not long after, she left WLS to become a female news anchor at Chicago’s first cable TV station. "It was a good thing she changed jobs," Stuart points out, "since the TV station had some issues with colleagues dating."

That June, Stuart caught the eye of some visiting network honchos and was recruited by ABC News in New York. He flew east for an interview, which went very well. "I wasn’t sure if I wanted to make the change," Stuart admits, "but I told Francie I’d probably take the job."

"And I told him, ‘You’re not going to New York alone,’" Francie recalls. "And by the next morning, both our mothers were discussing floral arrangements and wedding decorations."

Stuart began his new job in July of 1968 — "And missed out on all the excitement of the Democratic Convention in Chicago," he laments — and at first Francie stayed behind. After their wedding in December, they both settled in New York, in Jackson Heights. After a move to Manhattan, they bought a house in Teaneck. Then Stuart was transferred to Washington, D.C., to work on the local "Good Morning America" show, which had just begun that year. They moved to a place in the suburbs of northern Virginia.

Francie was now raising the couples’ two children, Dana and David, but found time to occasionally work in publishing. Once their kids were older, she went into marketing and sales, and then fund-raising.

In 1984, Stuart was reassigned to New York. The Schwartz family bought their current home in Montvale and became members of Temple Beth Or in Washington Township.

In the early 1990s, Francie had what she refers to as a "wake-up call," and decided to go back to school for her masters in Judaic studies. She attended Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion and teaches adult Jewish learning classes in many different venues. "It’s my passion," she says.

While still in graduate school, she edited a book, with Prof. Eugene Borowitz, called "The Jewish Moral Virtues" (Jewish Publication Society). After completing another book on her own, this one called "Passage to Pesach," Francie is now writing a new book with Borowitz. She works for the Union for Reform Judaism, the congregational arm of the North American Reform movement, as its adult learning coordinator.

Stuart — who will be celebrating his 40th anniversary with ABC at the end of this year — is senior broadcast producer for "Good Morning America." Both their children apparently caught the journalism/media bug — Dana Bash is a congressional correspondent for CNN in Washington and David is a news and sports producer for Bader TV news in New York.

"We didn’t push them to go into broadcasting," Stuart explains, "but when we lived in Washington, I used to bring Dana and David to the studio with me on Fridays, when I worked on the new program "Nightline" — where they played with Ted Koppel’s kids. I think they must have soaked up the atmosphere."

During 38 years of marriage, Francie and Stuart discovered they had a lot more in common than a love of journalism. "We have the same essential values," Francie says, then adds with a grin, "and what keeps the marriage fresh is that we rarely see each other."

Stuart nods. "We’re very lucky. Francie understands how my business works; she ‘gets’ the craziness and the crisis mentality." He pauses to reflect. "We both came from modest childhoods, and I’m proud that we haven’t become materialistic — we still live rather simply."

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