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Published: Friday, 1/26/2007

News anchor was 'destined to be a broadcaster'

Edwards Edwards

Don Edwards, 82, a 34-year Toledo newscaster and anchorman on radio and television who retired in 1996 as a lead anchorman for WNWO-TV, Channel 24, died of cancer yesterday in his West Toledo home.

He'd struggled with cancer for about two years and was under hospice care at home, said his son-in-law London Mitchell.

Unlike years past, Mr. Edwards was not the master of ceremonies Dec. 31 for the annual big band New Year's Eve party presented by orchestra leader Johnny Knorr - during which Mr. Edwards traditionally sang "Tiny Bubbles."

But he was in attendance in October at the Toledo Club when the Press Club of Toledo presented him a Golden Touchstone Award for lifetime achievement in journalism in northwest Ohio.

Mr. Edwards retired Dec. 27, 1996, from WNWO.

Explaining his decision, he told The Blade: "I think it was just time ... Toledo's been very good to me. I've been very fortunate to have the career I've had."

He was offered the job at the television station in June, 1990, as the station launched a 5:30 p.m. newscast.

"I don't think he was ready to retire," said Mr. Mitchell, a former colleague of Mr. Edwards' who also is news director of Cumulus Broadcasting radio stations in Toledo.

"He found [the position] meaningful. He got energized by being around the young people coming into the business and feeling there was still a place for him, still an opportunity to pass along the knowledge and skills he gained along the way," Mr. Mitchell said.

In taking the WNWO anchor chair, he came full circle in Toledo broadcasting.

He was hired by WTOL-TV in 1962, recalled veteran broadcaster Gordon Ward. The two on Mr. Edwards' first day covered a fire at Maumee Chemical.

Mr. Edwards became an anchor for WTOL, where he remained for a decade.

"He was very professional in all that he did," Mr. Ward said. "He wanted to make sure that everything was done right up to snuff. He had strong opinions on a variety of things, but he never allowed his opinions to enter into his reporting.

"He was authoritative and came across as believable and knowing what he was talking about," said Mr. Ward, who retired from WTVG-TV in 1987.

Veteran broadcaster Frank Venner said: "He was destined to be a broadcaster, I believe, and of course he did that beautifully.

"Don had a great voice," said Mr. Venner, who was Mr. Edwards' competition as an anchor at the then-WSPD-TV.

"He had a tremendous ability to get along with other people, even the people who were competing against him. I think that would be the legacy that would be most important."

Mr. Edwards in 1973 was hired at WSPD-AM to succeed legendary Toledo broadcaster Jim Uebelhart.

"At that point, it was probably the premier broadcast job in the city," Mr. Mitchell said. "He just jumped at the chance to get back into radio.

"Don was the master of the written word. His command of the English language and his command of his voice, his inflection, how he was able to enunciate and put the right tone and volume in how he was describing something, was marvelous."

He later was at WCWA-AM, where Mr. Mitchell was news director.

"He became my mentor," Mr. Mitchell said. "I learned more in my years with him than in my 15 years prior. He knew the angles to take, the people to talk to, the questions to ask. It was a marvelous learning experience. He never made me feel intimidated."

Afterward, Mr. Edwards was at WWWM-FM. He left that job to become WNWO news anchor.

Mr. Edwards was inducted in 2000 into the Lake Erie West Hall of Fame for the Performing Arts.

Born in Spring Valley, Minn., Mr. Edwards was 12 when he became a regular on a Rochester, Minn., children's radio program. He was a graduate of Rochester, Minn., High School and attended Drake University in Des Moines.

He was an Army Air Corps veteran of World War II and flew 32 missions as a radio control operator on a B-17.

Broadcasting in Rochester and Flint, Mich., preceded his career in Toledo.

In retirement, Mr. Edwards was a part-time dispatcher and driver for ProMedica Laboratories. "Don was a very gregarious person," Mr. Mitchell said. "He did it mostly to get out of the house and get around people.''

He especially enjoyed spending time with his grandchildren, Mr. Mitchell said.

Surviving are his wife, Shirley, whom he married in 1946; sons, Steven and Jeffrey Edwards; daughters, Debra Mitchell, Denise Johnson, and Elizabeth Edwards; sister, Nancy Cannon; 13 grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.

There will be no visitation. Services are pending at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church, of which he was a member.

The family suggests tributes to Hospice of Northwest Ohio or the church.

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