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Published: Sunday, 8/3/2008

Ad agency founder aided success of Etch A Sketch

Anne Stahl Crowley, 86, founder of an advertising agency that had offices in Toledo and Bryan and helped bring Etch A Sketch to the national stage, died yesterday in Hospice of Northwest Ohio, Perrysburg Township.

The cause of death was not known, but she had been in declining health, her daughter Barbara Stahl said.

Mrs. Crowley led what became Stahl Associates Inc., which was founded in Bellevue, Ohio, in the early 1950s as a one-woman operation. When she and her family moved in 1961 to Bryan, she set up shop there.

She and her then-husband, David Stahl, and another couple were partners in a toy design business in Bellevue. So when she got to Bryan, she approached Ohio Art with her experience in advertising - and toys.

"She said, 'I can do what you're doing here as well as it's being done,'•" her daughter said. "She was kind of bold that way, and ultimately [the firm] got the account. On her 40th birthday, she was notified."

On her office wall hung photos of Mrs. Crowley with Barbara Walters and with Gene Shalit. She got to know NBC executives and was able to land commercial spots on the Today Show, which in those days had its personalities - such as Hugh Downs, Ms. Walters, and later Mr. Shalit - do live commercials. Arthur Godfrey did Etch A Sketch spots on his CBS Radio program.

"She was ahead of her time. She played a fine part in the success of Etch A Sketch," said George Isaac, Jr., a longtime Bryan business and civic leader who was a friend.

Mrs. Crowley, with business partner June Hofstatter, had local and regional clients as well - a bank, a natural gas company, a chain of dairy stores. By 1972, the firm boasted 16 clients and an annual billing of $1.3 million. That year, she received the Silver Medal Award from the Women's Advertising Club of Toledo, which named her its woman of the year. She received national awards too, her daughter said.

The Bryan office was closed by the late 1970s. A short-lived merger in 1974 with the Toledo advertising and public relations firm Flournoy and Gibbs was followed by the firm opening an office on North Republic Boulevard and, later, in Maumee.

"She was very smart. She was very creative," said her daughter, who in 1988 succeeded her mother as president of Stahl Associates.

Mrs. Crowley formally retired at 65. Her daughter closed the business in the mid-1990s.

She and her second husband, Joseph Crowley, married in 1974. In retirement, they settled on a dairy farm they owned near Wilmington, Ohio, and she enjoyed traveling the globe. After her husband's death in 1990, Mrs. Crowley returned to the Toledo area and lived most recently in Monclova Township.

Born in Independence, Mo., she was a graduate of Central High School in Tulsa, Okla.

Surviving are her sons, Mitch Stahl and Patrick Crowley; daughters, Charlotte Ameter, Margaret Greer, Barbara Stahl, Katie Hightower, and Kathie Crowley; 14 grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.

Services will be at 10 a.m. tomorrow in the Maison-Dardenne-Walker Funeral Home, Maumee, where the body will be after 3 p.m. today.

The family suggests tributes to the Joseph A. and Anne Stahl Crowley Memorial Scholarship Fund at the Toledo Museum of Art; the South Cove Community Church of Christ, Toledo, or Hospice of Northwest Ohio.

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