Awarding winning editor, Joe Malecki, dies in fire just days before leaving for Olympics for NBC

Joe Malecki, considered one the best sports editors in the world, was excited about going to the Bejiing this Saturday to edit Summer Olympics events for NBC, as he had for the past 20 years.

“He was a man with an editing suitcase?he had an Avid in a box when he traveled,” said Bob Carr, a close friend and former partner of Mr. Malecki, 51, who died tragically last week.

While the cause of death is still being sorted out, a newspaper reported that he died of smoke inhalation from a fire in his car, possibly caused by a lit cigarette he had been holding.

The car was engulfed in flames when firemen arrived, too late to save him. Friends reported, however, that Mr. Malecki recently had heart surgery and it is speculated he might have died of a heart attack.

A native of Harvey, Mr. Malecki began his 25-year editing career in 1982, fresh out of Western Illinois University, when he was hired by Jimmy Smith, the original owner of Optimus.

Smyth remembers Mr. Malecki as “always in a good mood and could easily put a smile on your face. Always laughing, always generous, always willing to stay a little longer to help people out.”

When Optimus ownership changed some 13 years later, Mr. Malecki and his fellow Optimus editors, Carr, the late Yamus and Mike LaBellarte left to form NuWorld, an editorial boutique.

Said Mark “Taco” Sarantakos, Mr. Malecki’s best friend going back to their high school days, through college and at Optimus: “When it came to getting the job done, Joe led the way. He wouldn’t settle for anything less than the absolute best. He always had his clients’ best interests at heart.

“When a client like Gary Conway went out the door with a Joe and Optimus job, it was absolutely perfect. Gary could not have gotten a better job done anywhere on the planet.”

After NuWorld dissolved in 2001, Mr. Malecki, an avid boater and outdoorsman, moved to central Wisconsin, “where his life was very content,” said Carr.

That was his base from which the multi-award-winning editor he traveled all over the world to work on big-budget, high profile commercials ? and for NBC and the Olympics, his most durable and best loved client.

“Joe was a great editor,” Carr recalled. “I could read his signature on some of the Olympic events; the story pieces all had the mark of Joe Malecki.

“He was a character but one of the most generous and giving guys I’ve ever known,” said Carr. “He worked hard and played hard but always had room for generosity in his heart,” he added.

Mr. Malecki is survived by his daughter, Sanna Sophia, her mother, Ann Malecki, a stepson, Matthew Santullano, of Libertyville; sister, Susan (Robert) Villa and niece, Kristin.

Chicago memorial services will be held Tuesday, Aug. 5, at Outsider, Inc., 230 E. Ohio St. The studio was graciously provided by director/editor Mike LaBallarte, a friend and former NuWorld partner of Mr. Malecki.