Helen Vitkow Guggino, 96, former Inquirer radio, TV editor

Helen V. Guggino
Helen V. Guggino
Posted: February 05, 2013

Helen Vitkow Guggino, 96, who began her career as a copy girl at The Inquirer and eventually became the paper's radio and television editor, died of heart failure Friday, Jan. 4, at Hampton Care Center in Southampton.

When she was in her 60s, Mrs. Guggino embarked on a career in fashion design, creating dresses that drew a following among Philadelphians seeking simple but elegant frocks, said her son, Jhon Christopher.

Bold and witty, she spoke her mind.

When people asked what she earned at The Inquirer years ago, she answered, "Not enough. You know how they treat women."

She grew up in Lester, Delaware County, and got her first job at a jute mill. Eventually, she became a supervisor at a company near The Inquirer that made transistors; she joined the paper in 1942.

Her son said his mother immediately recognized that television would become a major influence on American life and sought to make program information easy to find in the paper.

According to family lore, Walter Annenberg, who owned The Inquirer and TV Guide, told Guggino, "Helen, besides beauty, you have brains and I like both."

In 1968, injuries from a car accident forced her to retire early, but she soon grew bored with staying home and enrolled in the Tracy Warner School of Fashion, graduating in June 1979 at age 63. She began making dresses that she sold to private clients.

Her husband, John Guggino, was president of the mailers' union at The Inquirer. He died in 1979.

Christopher said his mother encouraged his passions. Upon hearing him play the piano at a neighbor's house when he was 4 years old, she went out immediately and bought a piano for him. He still plays, he said.

For the last five years, she had lived in East Hampton, N.Y. In addition to her son, who lives in Sag Harbor, N.Y., Mrs. Guggino, who was the oldest of eight children, is survived by a brother, Harry Vitkow; a sister, Nannette Dispas; and a granddaughter.

Arrangements for a memorial service were not complete.


Contact Miriam Hill at 215-854-5520 or hillmb@phillynews.com.

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