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Respected & celebrated TV pioneer dies at 72

EDIE HUGGINS was a gal who liked to have fun. Like the time she went to a Bruce Springsteen concert at the Atlantic City Convention Center with Dawn Stensland and her husband, Larry Mendte.

EDIE HUGGINS was a gal who liked to have fun.

Like the time she went to a Bruce Springsteen concert at the Atlantic City Convention Center with Dawn Stensland and her husband, Larry Mendte.

"We had general admission floor tickets, which meant no seats," said Stensland, co-anchor of Fox 29 News. "We got there early and stood close to the stage. Edie was 68 years old and danced for over three hours straight. She exclaimed, 'This was the most fun I ever had at a concert.'

"Edie loved life and it was impossible not to love Edie."

Or the way she could let her hair down at the legendary Halloween parties thrown by jeweler/impresario Henry David.

"She was such a good sport," David said. "She was funny, a great entertainer."

Then there was the time she and David traveled to a sapphire mine in Thailand, posing as man and wife, surrounded by gun-toting soldiers.

"She loved it," David said. "We had a blast. I don't know who I can find now who would be as much fun."

Edie Huggins, who started her working life as a nurse and model, and who had bit parts in soap operas and film before coming to Philadelphia in 1966 to begin a career in television that would make her one of local TV's most celebrated and respected personalities for 42 years, died Tuesday after a long battle with cancer. She was 72.

Herb Clarke, retired Channel 10 weatherman who worked with Edie for years, said that the manager of the station at the time picked her out of a catalog of New York models.

"She had never done live TV," Clark said. "But she blended in very well. We had a formidable news team, led by the legendary John Facenda, but Edie met the challenge in grand style.

"She became a skilled writer and reporter. She would search out good stories on her own."

Clarke recalled the time that they were doing a show called "What's Happening" and a guest brought in a Bengal tiger. Edie took it in professional stride, even when the animal laid its head on Clarke's feet.

Lisa Thomas-Laury, Channel 6 news anchor, recalled that when she arrived in Philadelphia in 1978, Edie was "so warm and kind. She reached out to me and said if I needed anything to let her know.

"We used to run into each other at Saks' hair salon and talk about the business. If I could be half as successful as she was I would be very, very pleased.

"She was a champion for all women working in this business, not only in Philadelphia but across the country. She was a true pioneer."

"We often use the word 'pioneer' loosely," said Marc Howard, retired Channel 6 anchor. "But Edie truly was a pioneer. When she started in television, it was a collection of white males of no detectable ethnicity.

"Edie helped change all that. And whenever I saw her, on a story or at an event, I was reminded of how she broke the barriers: class, style, wit and a mind as sharp as a tack."

Larry Kane, veteran broadcaster who worked with Edie at Channel 10, said that when he first saw her he was amazed at how she talked directly to the viewer.

"There are very few in this business who can make that electric contact. It was as though she was having a personal conversation with the viewer.

"She was very funny. Had a great sense of humor. She liked to tickle the big egos, bring them down to earth."

Said Stu Bykofsky, Daily News columnist "She had a knack for making people feel comfortable around her.

"I also knew her as a great friend of the gay community in general and Henry David in particular. I can't recall how many years she and I were judges of his fabulous Halloween parties. It was a night that was sure to bring out a little bit of Edie's bawdy side, which she did have."

One of Bykofsky's favorite causes was addressing the terrible conditions of the shelter run by the Philadelphia Animal Care and Control Center on W. Hunting Park Avenue.

"I found out that Edie would go there weekly, with no fanfare and no cameras, and clean out the cages. No job was too dirty for her to do, and she wanted no recognition for it."

"In her uniquely dignified way, Edie helped open the doors and blazed the trail that made it possible for so many of us to be here," said Chris Blackman, NBC 10 vice president of news. "Personally, I will always appreciate her support, checking in on me whenever I had a rough day. Although she will no longer be in our newsroom, she'll remain in our hearts."

A native of St. Joseph, Mo., Edie was born on Aug. 14, 1935. She graduated cum laude from the State University of New York with a bachelor's degree in science. Then known as Edith, she became a registered nurse and worked at both Bellevue and Flower-Fifth Avenue Hospitals in New York City.

At the same time, she acted in the NBC daytime drama "The Doctors," appearing as a nurse. She also appeared on "The Edge of Night" and "Love of Life," both produced by CBS Television. She had a part in the film "A Man Called Adam," starring Sammy Davis Jr., and in an independent movie, "So Big."

Edie won many honors during her career. She received awards from the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, the Urban League, Philadelphia City Council and the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists. She was one of the founding members of the National Association of Black Journalists, and was inducted into the Philadelphia Broadcast Pioneers Hall of Fame.

She was a devoted member of Bright Hope Baptist Church.

She is survived by a son, Hastings Edward, and a daughter, Laurie Linn.

Services: Memorial service 7 p.m. Tuesday at Bright Hope Baptist Church, 12th Street and Cecil B. Moore Avenue. *