CLEVELAND - Cleveland TV lost a piece of history with the passing of Betty Cope.
Cope, who died Saturday night at her Bainbridge home at the age of 87, embodies the definition of a pioneer for women in the beginnings of television news and production.
Cope started her TV career in 1947 as a receptionist at WEWS, Ohio's first television station, but soon proved she was meant for a different position behind the camera: director.
At the time, it was almost unheard of for a woman to be directing a live television broadcast, but Cope showed her determination and seriousness. In fact, those traits were put to the test on her first directing assignment: during a massive snowstorm on Thanksgiving in the 1950's, Cope rode a horse from Shaker Square to downtown Cleveland so she would not miss the gig.
(Video of her reminiscing about the occasion with Wilma Smith and Fred Griffith is attached. In fact, Cope was the one who hired well-known Cleveland TV host Griffith in 1967.)
Cope soon became a producer at WEWS, before leaving the station to become founding president and the first general manager of WVIZ. Cope’s legacy became the driving force behind bringing educational television to Cleveland. Cope was with WVIZ until her retirement in 1993.
Cope grew up in Shaker Heights and graduated from Hathaway Brown before attending Marjorie Webster Junior College. Over her long career, Cope was honored by Society of Professional Journalists and the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, as well as getting inducted into the Cleveland Journalism Hall of Fame in 2005.
But for many WEWS employees, Betty Cope is remembered as the friendly woman who hosted the annual summer picnic at the Bainbridge cabin along the Chagrin River, where she would eventually pass away, surrounded by family.
A memorial service is set for 2:30 the afternoon of Oct. 12, at the West Woods Nature Center of the Geauga Park District.
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