Garrick Utley, who worked as a globetrotting foreign correspondent during the flush decades of network news, has died at age 74 of prostate cancer, his wife of 40 years said Friday.
"He has been fighting -- as you always call it -- prostate cancer for two years," Gertje Utley said. "He had a very, very rare, very aggressive kind."
He died Thursday night at his home in New York overlooking Central Park, she said.
"He was really the old kind of journalist," she said of her husband, who reported from more than 75 countries. "He was the old kind of trenchcoat-clad journalist who wrote his own copy -- always wrote his own copy."
During his early years at NBC, the network did not scrimp on devoting resources to newsgathering, she said. "That's what he always talked about: The early days were the lucky days."
Born in Chicago in 1939 to a radio and television news couple, Clifton and Frayn Utley, Garrick graduated from Carleton College and studied at the Army Language School in Monterey, California, before winning a Fulbright Scholarship and moving to Berlin to study East-West relations, she said.
In 1963, NBC's John Chancellor -- who had worked for Utley's father -- hired him as an office assistant in the network's bureau in Brussels, Belgium, she said.
After NBC News's "Huntley-Brinkley Report" expanded that year from 15 minutes to half an hour, the network was looking for more material, and Utley caught the eye of the brass. "He covered a couple of stories for the Common Market, as it was called then," she said of what is now the European Economic Community, and did some work in London.
"But mainly, within the year, there was this little war going on, and they didn't have a journalist there. So Garrick started the NBC office in Vietnam."
When he arrived in Saigon, the newsman was the bureau's sole occupant. By the time he left a few years later to report from capitals around the world, 20 people were staffing it, Gertje Utley said.
He went on to serve as bureau chief in Berlin from 1966-68 and then in Paris, where he met his wife in 1971. From 1973-79, he was chief foreign correspondent for Europe and the British Isles.
But he returned several times to Vietnam for such key events as the 1968 Tet Offensive and the pullout of U.S. troops in 1973.
They were heady days for foreign correspondents. It was not unusual for NBC to send Utley for three weeks to report a story in China or for two weeks to cover a story in Zimbabwe, his wife said. "It was still the journalism where you actually had to have the knowledge and explain a situation."
Utley prepared to be a man of the world, becoming fluent in German and French and developing a working knowledge of Russian and Spanish, she said.
He was a ubiquitous presence on the network, serving as a weekend anchor of "NBC Nightly News" and a moderator of "Meet the Press," in addition to his work as a correspondent.
But over the years, the network cut its newsgathering resources, she said. "Today, journalism is somebody telling you what you see behind them," she said. "Garrick still gave the background of the political situation and why it is that way. I'm sorry, this is a proud widow talking."
After GE bought NBC in 1986, "he really witnessed the decline," and Utley went briefly to ABC as its chief foreign correspondent, but left after it was bought by Disney in 1996, when its news division endured similar cuts. In 1997, he moved to CNN as a contributor.
"And what a presence he was," CNN Editorial Director Richard T. Griffiths said in an e-mail to colleagues on Friday. "In his calm, measured, voice anchoring on 9/11 and in countless pieces, Garrick delivered thoughtful analysis that always raised the bar.
"Garrick was the consummate gentleman in every encounter. He was relentlessly curious, passionate about storytelling, and unafraid to take on the controversial topics.
"Those here in those days learned so much from Garrick. ... He left a mark. We can all hope to do the same."
But the network did not embrace Utley's tone, his widow said. "He actually was reprimanded for it: 'Garrick, why do you have to be so serious?' "
He carried a serious demeanor throughout his life, said his sister-in-law Carol Marin, a Chicago journalist who is married to Utley's brother Jonathan.
"He was always kind of the grownup in the room, even when he as much younger," she said. "I really think he had a kind of dignity. We saw it in his death, and we knew it in his life."
When he left CNN in 2002, Utley's farewell note cited advice he had received more than four decades before from Chancellor. "Keep your voice low and your sentences short."
"I am not sure how much of a place there is for low, quiet voices in our chosen field today, but brevity is still a virtue," Utley wrote.