Ken Camp - Railbirding Guide (1986)

Lou Presti

Lou Presti BUCKS COUNTY, PA Renowned and prolific New Jersey filmmaker Lou Presti died on March 5, 2015 at age 77, after a long illness. Lou was a legend in film circles, having produced and directed scores of documentaries during his illustrious 40-year career at New Jersey Network. Some of his works, among them "My Pine Barrens Land" and "Survival of Species," focused on the Garden State's most astounding natural wonders. Lou won even more acclaim by using his camera, his eye, and his love of history to tell us stories about New Jersey's role in America's founding. His "Crossroads to Victory" and "Ten Crucial Days" both examined pivotal battles that helped turn colonies into country. Lou, "Louie," to his many friends, had a mantle filled with Emmy Awards and a legion of admirers.

Born Louis John Prestigiacomo in Stamford, CT, Lou fell in love at a very young age. With cameras. With film. And with telling stories through beautifully crafted images and sound. He was the first of his family to attend college, studying television and radio at the University of Miami. After graduation, Lou headed off into the wild blue yonder as an aerial cinematographer in the Navy. Along with his trusty camera, he was on one flight that broke the sound barrier. Lou's personal life and career were moving at about the same speed. After his stint in the Navy, Lou landed TV positions in Buffalo, NY, and New Hampshire.

Even more important, Lou met, wooed, and apparently wowed Cynthia Wick, who would be his wife for 50 years, and who was at his side when his life on earth ended. The Prestis' lives were dramatically altered in 1970 when Lou heard about a startup network called New Jersey Public Television.

His already-impressive body of work landed him a job at the station, where he was one of the very first employees. Lou and a handful of other pioneers were challenged with turning an abandoned bowling alley in Ewing into a first-rate television facility. And that's exactly what they did. Lou was initially a manager at the station, but he soon realized that signing forms and counting sick days was his personal version of hell. So he focused on doing what he did best, telling stories with his tools - Arriflex camera, Nagra sound recorder, Steenbeck flatbed film editor. And with lots of help from his colleagues.

Lou collaborated with dozens of cinematographers, audio engineers, film editors, sound mixers, and others. They universally adored him as a man, and admired him as an artist totally dedicated to creating films that were informative, entertaining, and downright beautiful. When film was supplanted by video, when old boxy TVs gave way to high definition flat screens, Lou simply adapted. Superior technology meant people would be able to view his stunning images with more clarity than ever before. Lou produced and directed New Jersey Network's first HD film, and he continued to experiment with the latest technologies until his retirement in 2009.

Cynthia and Lou cherished their three lovely and loving daughters, Stephany, Adriene, and Cynthia. In addition to "the girls," he is also survived by a sister, Joan Sarisky, and five grandchildren. The Presti house was always a festive gathering place for their many friends and extended family. Sure, Louis John Prestigiacomo left the "giacomo" back in Stamford, but he was forever the model of a gracious Italian host. Lou's long illness was devastating to all who knew him, even to some who only knew the man through his brilliant work. Lou Presti did exactly what he was born to do. He put his soul into creating great works of art, which endure as testaments to his talent and determination. Lou's friends are now hoping that Heaven includes a sailboat, a barbeque grill, a black Miata, a hi-fi with Sinatra LPs spinning "night and day," and of course, a 35mm camera. And that he'll eventually be surrounded, just as he was on earth, by his deeply loving family and his many adoring friends. Ciao, Luigi.