By: The Associated Press
(AP)Bill Handleman, the award-winning sports and news columnist at the Asbury Park Press who championed the fight of David Goldman to bring his son home from Brazil in a long international custody battle, has died.
Handleman died in Philadelphia early Wednesday after a two-year battle with cancer. He was 62.
Handleman spent three decades at the Neptune-based newspaper. His first 26 years were in sports, where he covered pro teams in New York City, New Jersey and Philadelphia and national events, such as the World Series, Super Bowl, major boxing matches and — possibly his favorite sport — horse racing.
As a columnist, the Neptune resident relished championing the underdog. Handleman considered the plight of Goldman, whom he met in the fall of 2008, one of the more egregious injustices.
In 2004, Goldman’s then-wife, Bruna Bianchi Goldman, had flown to Brazil with their then-4-year-old son, Sean, and her parents, purportedly for a brief vacation. The next day, Goldman says, she phoned him to say she wasn’t coming back and demanded that he fly to Brazil and sign divorce papers drawn up by her attorney or he would never see Sean again.
Bruna later remarried but died after giving birth. Her second husband, a well-connected attorney in Brazil, kept custody of Sean in defiance of international law and even secured a gag order to prevent Brazilian media from writing about the case.
Handleman wrote a series of columns and stories about Goldman’s efforts to regain custody of his son. And Goldman was awarded custody and returned to Tinton Falls on Christmas Eve 2009 with his son.
The Press nominated Handleman’s work for a Pulitzer Prize.
Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., who pressed Goldman’s case in Washington and accompanied him to Brazil numerous times, said Handleman’s columns galvanized support for Goldman at the highest levels of the U.S. government.
“I, along with tens of thousands of others, read each and every column, often with tears of empathy and resolve to do more,” Smith wrote in a letter to the Pulitzer Board in support of Handleman’s nomination. “David Goldman was indeed lucky that the columnist who embraced his quest turned out to be a consummate story teller dedicated to spotlighting issues of injustice. Bill Handleman’s column changed the course of the game.”
Handleman, the son of an international correspondent for U.S. News & World Report magazine, grew up in Tokyo, Paris, San Francisco and Washington, graduating with a degree in history from Occidental College in Los Angeles.
After stints at the Star-Democrat in Easton, Md., and the Guardian in Lexington Park, Md., Handleman joined the Press’ sports department in 1980.
“It’s a sad loss,” said Hollis R. Towns, executive editor and vice president of news at the Press. “He was a valuable part of this newspaper as well as the community.”
Handleman is survived by his wife, Judy. Funeral arrangements were pending.