Shirley E. Timonere, retired president and general manager of WGTE public broadcasting, who was recognized nationally as a force in educational television, died Friday in St. Luke’s Hospital, Maumee. She was 83.
She was in failing health, her daughter Jennifer Bainbridge said.
Mrs. Timonere retired in 2002, several months after WGTE moved from its longtime downtown Toledo home to a $5 million, 40,000 square-foot facility on South Detroit Avenue.
She became the third recipient, in 2003, of the Fred Rogers Award to honor her role in children’s educational media.
More than a decade earlier, she approached Mr. Rogers with an idea to bring Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood and other educational programs into childcare settings — and to train caregivers how to use the programs productively. Mr. Rogers liked the idea, as did PBS, said Marlon Kiser, her successor at WGTE. What became the Ready to Learn Service received major funding for years from the federal education department.
“Eventually almost all the public broadcasting stations delivered Ready to Learn services,” said Mr. Kiser, president and general manager of WGTE Public Media. “She was never a proud person outwardly, but I know she felt that was her greatest accomplishment.
“That was the crowning glory to 25 years in public media,” Mr. Kiser said. “You think about millions of children who have benefited from that program through the years. It was immensely important.”
The potential of public broadcasting to educate led her to accept a job at WGTE. She’d been a classroom teacher and was a teaching fellow in political science at Bowling Green State University when she got an offer in 1977 to be a producer at WGTE.
Her first instinct was that she would not be teaching, Mrs. Timonere, a 1952 alumna of Ashtabula High School told an Ashtabula Hall of Fame ceremony audience in 2005. Then she remembered that teachers teach for life and around the clock — in church, the community, at home.
She realized that by producing educational programs, “you are not teaching three kids or a class of 30, you are reaching thousands of children and adults every day,” she told the audience. “This was a teaching offer I couldn’t refuse.”
She won promotions to director of television broadcasting and then to television station manager. After a national search, she was chosen in 1989 to lead the Public Broadcasting Foundation of Northwest Ohio, which holds the licenses to WGTE-TV FM and the FM stations WGLE in Lima, Ohio, WGBE, Bryan, and WGDE, Defiance.
“We said, ‘We’ve got somebody here who really knows the business,’” said Richard Anderson, who was board chairman then. “She was calm and very bright, and she made relationships that were meaningful. She was really effective.”
She served on the Toledo Mud Hens board for years. Joe Napoli, president and chief executive of the Mud Hens and Walleye, said she was instrumental in bringing the Mud Hens downtown to what became Fifth Third Field, and later, in the development of Huntington Center.
“She cared deeply,” Mr. Napoli said. “She wouldn’t hesitate to challenge any initiatives we were raising. That was what made her fun to be around. She wanted us to do well and do better.”
She was born May 23, 1934, in Conneaut, Ohio, to Ford and Osceola Eighmy and overcame polio in childhood, her daughter said. She had a bachelor’s degree from BGSU and an associate degree in education from Ohio University.
Surviving are her husband, Steven Timonere, whom she married June 13, 1956; daughters Jennifer Bainbridge, Stacia Timonere, and Anne Bennett; sister Beverly Safcik, and three grandchildren.
Memorial services will be at 4:30 p.m. Thursday at First Presbyterian Church of Maumee, with visitation after 3 p.m. She’d been a church elder. Arrangements are by the Maison-Dardenne-Walker Funeral Home, Maumee.
The family suggests tributes to the First Presbyterian Church of Maumee education fund, the WGTE education fund, or the Toledo Symphony.
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