NEW ORLEANS — Jerry Romig, the pioneering broadcaster, civic booster and public relations executive best known as voice of the New Orleans Saints as public address announcer for an incredible 44 seasons, has died. He was 86.
His son Mark confirmed the news to WWL-TV Wednesday night. “There were three loves in his life – Jan, his wife; his seven children and the Saints,” Mark Romig said.
Romig had been in failing health for some months, and cited health concerns, including injuries suffered in a fall at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, as one reason for his retirement in August 2013 from his post as Saints stadium announcer. Romig’s son Mark replaced him in the position.
“It’s been fun. Good night, I love you,” were Romig’s last words as he shut off his microphone for the last time in August 2013. That ended a stint with the Saints that began with the team’s third season in 1969, when games were played at Tulane Stadium. He continued in the position for 445 games, proudly never missing a matchup, even during the post-Hurricane Katrina season when the Saints played in Baton Rouge and San Antonio, where he traveled each week.
In a statement Wednesday, team spokesman Greg Bensel said owner Tom Benson and his wife Gayle offered their condolences to the Romig family. “Jerry Romig was a part of our team, part of our family. One of my favorite days was putting a Super Bowl ring on his finger.”
When Romig retired, Benson said in a statement that the longtime announcer’s voice was “embedded in our game experience.” Romig’s voice – including the memorable lines “First down, Saints!” and “It’s good!” – accompanied more than four decades of memorable moments inside the Superdome throughout Saints history – from losing seasons to shining moments. Three of Romig’s favorites involved Tom Dempsey’s record-setting kick, Steve Gleason’s blocked punt, and Garrett Hartley’s kick sending the team to their first and only Super Bowl.
“It has been such a great honor. I have been honored by the leadership of this community, the Superdome and the Saints organization to be the voice of the Superdome,” said Romig when he retired. “I’ve enjoyed every moment – there have been some great moments. I’m a fan and I like to keep that in mind all the time. I’ve been blessed – somebody has been watching over me for along to have kept me in front of that microphone for such a long time.”
To honor Romig, the Saints and Superdome renamed the house control booth inside the facility, where Romig called 44 seasons’ worth of games, the “Jerry Romig House Control Booth.” The team also presented Romig with a Super Bowl XLIV ring during the Saints’ 2013 home opener against the Atlanta Falcons.
In addition to his son Mark, two of Romig’s children worked alongside him for his 44 years as Saints announcer, including daughter Mary Beth and son Jay, who served as his spotter and play-clock operator, respectively.
Romig began his career as a public address announcer when he was hired by Tulane University in 1968 to work Green Wave games. He replaced Jack Dolan, who called the first season for the Saints. A year later, former Saints general manager Vic Schwenk hired Romig to replace Buddy Diliberto as stadium announcer. In addition to Saints games, Romig announced four Super Bowl games in New Orleans, as well as countless Sugar Bowls, Bayou Classics, Tulane and high school football games.
The Holy Cross High School graduate is a legend in local public relations, journalism and broadcasting circles as well, as a former vice president and program director at WDSU-TV, where he also worked in the news, public affairs and programming departments during the founding years of local TV in the 1950s and 1960s. Later, he helped establish WLAE-TV, the city’s second public television station, where he also served as president/general manager and program host.
He began his sports career in 1945 at The Times-Picayune at the age of 16, covering prep football games. After attending Loyola University and serving in the military during the Korean War, he worked at the States newspaper, D.H. Holmes department store and Lykes Brothers. In 1974, he joined the Archdiocese of New Orleans as director of development, where he established and supervised the development office and Catholic Foundation.
In 1990, Romig joined the Daughters of Charity to create an office of development for Hotel Dieu Hospital, which later became University Hospital. He served the state in the dual positions of Director of Communications for the entire state public hospital system and Director of Marketing and Public Relations for the Medical Center of Louisiana. Tied to his post with the hospitals, Romig hosted a weekly WLAE call-in show “Health Call,” taking viewer calls and questions about health care. The program ran for more than a decade.
Romig was a tireless civic booster, serving dozens of non-profit and community organizations over the years, including as president of the Sugar Bowl and president or board member of Goodwill Industries, the New Orleans Rotary Club, Children’s Bureau, Chamber of Commerce and United Way.
He also led the way for his children, many of whom are familiar faces in charitable and civic affairs, including son Mark, now president of the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corp.; and daughter Mary Beth, a former spokeswoman for Mayor Mitch Landrieu and the Convention and Visitors Bureau, and now for the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority. His son Jerry Jr. (better known as Jay) is administrative director for the Saints, and is one of the organization’s longest-tenured employees.
In 2004, Romig joined Peter A. Mayer Advertising and Public Relations as senior counsel, and remained active as a public relations person and program host for various clients and causes.
In July 2013, Jerry Romig was honored by the Press Club of New Orleans with a special award recognizing his 50 years of service to the club, which he served as president in the 1960s and one of the founders of the Gridiron Show annual fundraiser and satirical review. He was also inducted into the New Orleans Broadcasting Hall of Fame by the Greater New Orleans Broadcasters Association. In 2009, Romig received the Joe Gemelli Fleur De Lis award from the Saints Hall of Fame, an award given to a person who has contributed to the betterment of the New Orleans Saints organization.
Romig and his wife of nearly 60 years, Janice, lost their Lakeview home in the post-Katrina flood. They were the parents of 7 children; and had 11 grandchildren. Romig and his wife also served as foster parents for nearly two dozen children, as far back as 1964.
Funeral services will be held Saturday, Dec. 26 at St. Agnes Catholic Church, 3310 Jefferson Highway. Visitation will begin at 10 a.m. followed by a funeral Mass at noon. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to Goodwill Industries, Brother Martin High School or St. Mary’s Dominican High School.