He was handsome, he was fun, he was big on charity, he taught by example, and oh, how Charles D. Fegert could sell ads.He sold them so well that in 1972, when he was just 41, he became vice president of advertising and marketing for the Chicago Sun- Times, a post he held until Rupert Murdoch bought the paper in late 1983 and soon brought in his own top management team.
Mr. Fegert, known to his friends as Chuck, died in his sleep early Wednesday at his Chicago home. He was 71.He was born in Chicago and grew up on the South Side, graduating from South Shore High School. His father was a steelworker, and Mr. Fegert worked briefly in the mills as a young man. He earned a degree in business administration from Loyola University, served in the Coast Guard and joined the Sun-Times as an ad salesman in 1955.He rose rapidly. He was named supervisor of specialty store advertising in 1962, manager of retail advertising in 1963, advertising manager for the Sun-Times and Daily News in 1969, and in August 1972 became vice president of advertising and marketing for the newspaper division of Field Enterprises.
Phil Moses, a friend and former colleague, said Mr. Fegert practiced “management by charisma.” He organized lunches for his sales crew and instead of staying in the office giving orders, he went with them on calls, showing them by example how the job should be done.A handsome man whose movie-star looks made heads turn as he walked down the street, Mr. Fegert was married and divorced three times.He had been divorced from his first wife for some years when he met a beautiful young model, Trish Althaus. They were married in the Kraft Chapel of the North Shore Baptist Church.They had two children and divorced shortly before his 1977 marriage to actress Barbara Eden, best known for her television role in “I Dream of Jeannie.” He and Eden divorced five years later.
Retired Sun-Times adman Don Kaleta enviously remembered Mr. Fegert’s photographic memory. “In a poker game, he could remember all the other players’ cards,” Kaleta said.”Chuck added the word ‘smooth’ to Chicago newspaper advertising,” said another former colleague, Sun-Times classified ad executive Bill Galante.Mr. Fegert helped found Chicago’s Special Olympics and for years was in demand as a volunteer master of ceremonies at charity events.When private disco clubs were the rage, he was a partner in Huckleberry’s at 50 E. Oak. It later became a restaurant under another name. He was always involved in some new venture, from restaurants to oil wells in Texas and Oklahoma.”It was always sales. He was such a sales guy,” said his daughter Lisa Fegert. “He was always fun. He was the funnest dad and the funnest grandpa, always doing imitations and singing. All the grandchildren were sitting around the table singing songs he taught them.”
Other survivors are two sons, Michael and Chip; seven grandchildren, and his companion Lucy Samuel.”He didn’t want the traditional funeral thing,” his daughter said. “He said he wanted a party and everybody have a toast and celebrate his life.”So after the service at 10 a.m. Monday at Holy Name Cathedral, 735 N. State, his friends will walk a few blocks to the Rock Bottom Restaurant ; Brewery at Grand and State, where Chip Fegert is the chef, and they’ll have lunch and drink that farewell toast.