Written by Tom Williams Tuesday, April 02, 2013 10:00 am
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The middle child of seven, she had attended the St. Augustine School in Ocean City in grades one through eight and, after she graduated from Holy Spirit, went on to Montclair State College. Her curiosity and her talent led her into journalism.
Megargee worked in Atlantic City radio and was a reporter at WCAU Radio in Philadelphia and an anchor at KYW-Newsradio. She became a TV anchor in Pittsburgh and eventually began telling her stories in a series of programs and specials. She won eight local Emmy Awards.
The New Jersey Education Association plans to remember Megargee, who died last week at age 58. An NJEA Fredrick L. Hipp Grant will be named in her honor for projects focusing on journalism, media production and writing. Contributions can be made by going to NJEA.org.
There was some thought about creating a scholarship in her name, but because she had produced dozens of stories featuring Hipp Grant projects, they felt this was extremely appropriate. When the first grant in her name is announced, her family will be invited to the ceremony, which is always held at the NJEA Convention.
Some impressive people have strong memories of Kate Megargee.
Rich Renner is an award-winning producer who has worked at NJN Public Television and now is co-owner of his own media company.
“Kate and I worked closely together for 15 years,” Renner recalled. “I met her in 1998 at the moment the Classroom Close-up team was assembled at NJN Public Television. She lit up the room with the kind of immediate celebrity you might expect would require an entourage, but somehow Kate never rode on that ego train. Instead of intimidation, she got by on generosity and a gregarious nature. She was happy to share her television knowledge with novices and veterans alike.’
Renner admired her professionalism and it was always a pleasure watching the end result of her hard work.
“I marveled every time she sat down to record narration,” he said. “I could listen to her read all day. She was forever prepared and 3-2-1-ready to launch into a voiceover, rarely needing to record a second take. She was a true professional artist.”
He said she knew how to make seemingly impenetrable information accessible to every viewer.
“I counted on her clear and precise scripts that were a joy to read, and, once in the edit room, translated into entertaining television that had the power to teach and inspire,” he said.
They shared a love of books, often trading opinions and synopses of their favorites.
“I valued those discussions,” he said. “In October, we shot some interviews with local authors, intending to produce a pilot for an author chat series. It was something I had wanted to do for years. And even though she was going through some very difficult days and nights caring for her ailing mother, somehow she found the time to read the authors' recent books in time to be prepared and excited about the program.
“We talked about potential projects a lot, and I looked forward to developing more with her. It was an opportunity for both of us to enrich the lives of viewers, as well as our own lives. I will miss her terribly, but will carry on, inspired by her work and her values.”
Lori Savitch grew up in Margate and is an award-winning communications professional. She remembers when she first met Megargee.
“I met her in the summer of 1978. I had just graduated and was working for WOND Radio and she was a stringer for The Philadelphia Bulletin,” Savitch said. “We were covering Trans-Fair at NAFEC. I was sitting with her in a trailer and we were asked if anyone wants to wing walk. After it was explained we would be attached to the wing of a plane while it was in flight, she shot her hands in the air. I told her she was crazy. Those were the first words I said to my friend for life.
“We later worked together at WOND, waiting for what is now TV40 to become a reality, but we both got tired of waiting and moved on.
“There was nobody like her. We were very close. I have lost my best friend.”
Sherry Hoffman is a former network correspondent and radio news anchor who is now president of her own public relations firm.
“Kate and I co-anchored the evening news on WFPG Radio for five years in the late ’70s,” Hoffman said. “When you work that closely with someone in that stressful of a job, you see every side of them. Kate never lost her cool. That in itself is remarkable. She was one of the best people on the planet. We stayed close friends for the rest of her life. Our lifelong trio – me, Kate and Lori Savitch – were blessed to have spent a weekend together a few weeks ago. I am so thankful for that.
“What kept us so close for 40-some years? Kate.”
Although Kate Megargee’s life was much shorter than it should have been, it certainly was full.
Words to remember: “The most important part of my job is telling the stories of people I meet. They are poor, rich and in between; smart, uneducated, powerful and powerless; criminals and saints. It’s been a privilege to meet some of them; merely interesting to meet others, but an education in every case.
“Because of my work, I get to go places many people don’t: Riding on the wing (yes, the wing) of an airplane and the back of an elephant; sitting in the House and Senate chambers of statehouses and the U.S. Capitol during legislative debates and in the U.S. Supreme Court during legal arguments. I’ve been in homeless shelters and governors’ mansions; farms and factories; coal mining towns and big cities, and in many classrooms, from elementary schools to university campuses.
“I believe my work helps people. Information is powerful and what I do is tell stories that inform. And entertain. And give hope. Sometimes, I make people laugh. And every day, there’s a new story to tell.” – Kate Megargee