San Antonio radio, television and stage legend Mary Denman died Wednesday in a local private care facility. She was 90.
“Alzheimer's is a living hell,” her eldest daughter, Daryl Ann Denman, said Thursday. “Her dementia had started in the last few years. She finally just lapsed into an unresponsive coma.”
However, Denman, a pioneer of women in broadcasting and an ardent supporter of local theater, continues to burn brightly in the hearts and memories of many in news and entertainment here.
“It seemed Mary sort of floated through life effortlessly. Amazingly, she continued voice acting even into her 80s,” said Eileen Pace, reporter/host at Texas Public Radio's KSTX-FM.
“She was a trailblazer, and game for anything,” KENS-TV anchorwoman Deborah Knapp said.
“She even televised her own facelift,” Knapp recalled. “And when I was doing a story about sex over 60, Mary was more than happy to be interviewed.”
Denman's media career spanned some five decades, from the 1950s into the 21st century. She received numerous awards, including the National Achievement Award from the American Women in Radio and Television in 1995.
She was born June 28, 1922, spending her childhood and young adult years in Canton, Ohio. She earned a degree in English and music from Miami University there.
She started her TV career in Corpus Christi, hosting the city's first children's show, “Toyland Time,” as “The Song Lady” on KVDO in the early 1950s.
When she and husband Dick Denman moved to San Antonio, she was hired as the host-producer of “Our Town,” a weekday interview program on KENS-TV. Eventually, she became the station's first female co-anchor of a newscast.
Later, she moved to WOAI radio as the producer and co-host of “Morning Magazine” Monday through Friday.
After leaving radio, Denman and her husband formed their own ad agency, Mary Denman Inc., and ran it together until his death in 1991.
She then developed a radio program for seniors called “Prime Plus.” For the next 13 years, it aired every Sunday morning, first on WOAI, then KENS-AM and finally on KLUP.
Denman's passion for performing went beyond broadcasting, however. She's also remembered as a dynamo on the stage, playing everything from chorus parts to leads in local productions.
“She was amazing,” said Diane Malone, co-founder of the Classic Theatre of San Antonio, who served on the Alamo Theatre Arts Council board with Denman. “Always good-natured and gracious and generous and charming and sexy — even into her 80s.”
Behind the scenes, Denman also did a lot for local theater, chairing the capital campaign committee which renovated and restored The Playhouse, formerly the San Pedro Playhouse, raising more than $1 million.
There will be no burial.
“She donated her body to University of Texas Health Science Center,” daughter Daryl explained. “Mother felt that this was the way to go. It doesn't cost a dime and serves a purpose.”
Asia Ciaravino, president and CEO of The Playhouse, is asking local theaters to dim their lights at 8 p.m. Friday in honor of Denman.
Staff Writer Deborah Martin and directorsresource.com contributed to this report.