Veteran Toledo broadcaster Frank Venner diesWritten by John P. McCartney | | firstname.lastname@example.org
As he sits with his four brothers and one sister reminiscing about his 44 years as Frank Venner’s youngest son, Dave Venner can clearly hear his father’s “booming voice.”
“It was different when you heard it on TV versus where you heard it when it was in-house, but it was still the same,” Dave said. “Despite being a public figure in Toledo, [the job] never came home with him. It was always just Dad when he was home.”
Dave’s dad, Frank Courtney Venner III, 85, died Aug. 3 in the family’s Old Orchard home after a three-month battle with lung cancer.
Venner hosted broadcast news, weather, commentary and a quiz show for high school students on WSPD-TV Channel 13 (now WTVG) from 1948 to 1988 and ran for the U.S. House of Representatives (9th District) seat against the then-two-year incumbent Rep. Marcy Kaptur in 1984.
Venner began his 40-year broadcast career with WSPD Radio immediately following two years of military service from 1946-47, in the Army Air Forces. Within months of his arrival, WSPD Radio launched its TV station on July 21, 1948. WSPD-TV became WTVG-TV in the late ’70s.
Venner loved the challenge of those early years in TV, and he spoke about that time in his life in a WTVG 45-minute broadcast that originally aired April 21, 2008.
“Channel 13, for 10 years, had no competition, so, obviously, we won the race,” Venner said. “But in 1958, when our second channel hit the town, WTOL, then, of course, it was dog-eat-dog, and then the ratings became extremely important.”
Venner said he believed his notoriety in those early years as the “man-on-the-sidewalk” weatherman became his lasting legacy.
“‘Weather in the Weather’ was on for 10 years, from 1959 to 1969, and was probably the program that I became most identified with during my career,” Venner said. “But the interesting aspect is that I wasn’t the one who started that program. It was Jim Rudes.”
Weather forecasters in those early years didn’t have the computer simulation today’s meteorologists enjoy. Back then, it was maps and Magic Markers.
“They would hand me a microphone,” Venner said. “I would walk behind the board which had the map of the United States on it. And then one of the fascinations is that I would write backwards because I had to, so people at home could see what I was doing. So I learned to write backwards.”
Venner said viewers back then were no different than the fans who attend professional football games today.
“I can remember one night it was about 15 below zero at about 11 o’clock at night,” Venner said. “And a car pulled up with a bunch of college kids, and they had no shirts on. And they had to be absolutely hospital cases because it was so cold. And to add to the glamour, if you want to call it that, they were eating ice cream cones.”
Venner enjoyed what his son Dave called “three distinct careers.”
“First, he did ‘Weather in the Weather’,” Dave Venner said. “Then he did the news (‘Venner-Ward Report’) and ‘High School Quiz’ as moderator.
Venner hosted the quiz show for 25 years, taking three years off to run for Congress. He was replaced by Bill Spencer for 1983-84 and Gordon Ward for 1984-85.
“The third part of his career was doing editorials, which was totally different because that wasn’t about just telling just facts of the news,” Dave said. “That was about providing commentary on the news, and that was a big shift for him.”
By 1988, the year he retired, Venner had worked at the same broadcast station as a radio news reporter, weatherman, roving reporter, television news anchor, game show moderator, pundit and the station’s news director and editorial director.
“He loved Toledo,” Dave said. “He absolutely loved Toledo. He’s lived in the same family home for more than 50 years, and he couldn’t think of being anywhere else in his life.”
Venner, the only child of Frank C. Venner II and Virginia Grunder Venner, was born March 8, 1927. He came to Toledo in 1940 when his father accepted a transfer from Baltimore to run Toledo’s IBM office.
He graduated from Central Catholic High School in 1944 and University of Notre Dame in 1949 with a degree in communications.
“When he was at Notre Dame, he worked on the student radio station, and it just appealed to him a great deal,” Dave said. “Both his father and his grandfather had been career IBMers. He could have pursued that, but he chose to stay true to the broadcasting, had an opportunity with WSPD and never turned back.”
After college, the military and four years at WSPD, Frank married Ruth Blank on June 21, 1952. They enjoyed a 44-year marriage until Ruth died Aug. 28, 1996.
The Venners are survived by their six children: Michael, 59; Daniel, 58; Lisa Soeters, 56; Martin, 51; Jonathan, 50; and David, 44. Venner also leaves behind 11 grandchildren: Erin, Heidi and Todd Soeters and Andrew, Bailey, Bethany, Brittany, Emily, Laura, Rebecca and Reid Venner.
“Certainly his children were a big part of his life,” Dave said. “From a professional standpoint, [his life was about] staying very true to his journalistic training. He was very much about expressing to the public the facts of any situation and allowing them to draw their own conclusion from the facts. That was the principle he lived by.
“He took that position, that role, very seriously. He looked at himself as an individual that people were counting on to provide them with pertinent information. And he tried to make that come alive every day. He had great respect for the profession of journalism versus just being a TV figure.”
Late in his broadcast career, Venner was presented with an honorary doctorate of humane letters from Findlay College (now University of Findlay).
Family visitation is scheduled from 5 to 8 p.m. Aug. 6 at Walker Funeral Home, 5155 W. Sylvania Ave.
A funeral mass is scheduled at 11 a.m. Aug. 7 at Gesu Catholic Church, 2049 Parkside Blvd. Burial services will be private.
Venner’s children suggest that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made to Hospice of Northwest Ohio or the Toledo Animal Shelter in his name.
Jerry Anderson, co-anchor for ToledoNewsNow’s news broadcasts on WTOL-11 and Fox 36, credited Frank Venner and his contemporaries with what Anderson called the high standard of Northwest Ohio broadcast journalism.
“I’m very much aware that these guys built the foundation,” Anderson said in WTVG’s broadcast that aired April 21, 2008. “They were there when television first went on the air. We’re just carriers of the torch. They built the foundation. They put Channel 13 and Channel 11 on the map in this town. And we’re just here, in my opinion, to try to uphold the standards.”
WTGE broadcast that originally aired April 21, 2008: