John Callcott, UPI veteran, dies in Geneva

GENEVA, Switzerland, Aug. 16 (UPI) -- John Callcott, who covered everything from the Vietnam peace talks to the Olympics in more than 33 years with United Press International, died Monday in Geneva. He was 64.

Friends say the cause was throat cancer that he had battled with for three years.


Callcott joined United Press, as it was then known, in Frankfurt in 1957 and in 1960 was transferred to Bonn. Three years later, he went to Geneva, where he remained until December 1990, working out of a small office in the U.N. Palais de Nations.

By his own account Callcott covered the Adolf Eichmann trial, the building of the Berlin Wall and was three yards behind President Kennedy when he made his famous "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech. He covered disarmament and nuclear weapons talks, G7 summits and unrest and disasters on three continents, and called his years with UPI "a great life."

Alex Frere, a longtime friend and colleague, said, "He was probably the most versatile Unipresser I ever worked with. He had to punch his own copy on one of those Siemens machines that just produced tape, he did his audio spots in the U.N. toilets because of their superior acoustics, and reported everything from the start and finish of the Vietnam Peace Talks to the Lake Placid Olympics, the Middle East six-day war to the death of Charlie Chaplin.


"He loved UPI above all because he was fiercely competitive and winning the logs was a narcotic."

Finding it impossible to support a family on a UPI salary in Geneva, Frere said Callcott "wrote under many aliases for at least seven newspapers and magazines in four languages in England, Switzerland, Germany, France and Italy. But it was always on topics that UPI didn't use such as one-pointers -- Italians falling off the Matterhorn and so on."

After leaving UPI in 1980, he worked for several publications and in the last decade became the editor of Hors Ligne, a Swiss glossy magazine that published half in English and half in French.

"He was something of a renaissance man," said Frere.

"He was a musician, a strong tennis player, an expert skier and any meal cooked by him was memorably good. In restaurants, he often used to go into the kitchen and discuss what he wanted personally with the chef."

Funeral services in French and English by a Scottish Presbyterian minister were held at the St. Georges memorial gardens in Petit-Lancy outside of Geneva. He was cremated.

Callcott was married and divorced twice and had two children by the first marriage, his son dying of leukemia at the age of 14.


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