Betty Zimmerman

Obituary
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  • "Dear Hellie, what a huge loss. Donna and I are so glad that..."
    - KENNETH TINGLEY
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    - Bob O'Reilly
  • "It has been a long time, but I have many fond memories of..."
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    - Robert Cavanagh
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    - Barry Stewart
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OBITUARY BETTY ZIMMERMAN Born December 19, 1923 in Winnipeg, died in Ottawa January 26, 2009. A graduate of Kelvin High School and the University of Manitoba (1945), Betty moved to Ottawa. She worked at the National Film Board under John Grierson and in 1952 joined Crawley Films as a producer-director of commercials and documentaries. She joined the CBC in 1959 as a producer of current affairs programs for radio and, later, TV. In 1978, as the CBC's Director of Overseas and Foreign Relations (later International Relations), she coordinated its international interests all over the world. In 1978, she succeeded fellow Winnipegger Marshall McLuhan on UNESCO's International Commission for the Study of Communication Problems (a.k.a. the MacBride Commission), the only female in an august group of 16. The MacBride Report became a reference work for college and university Communications and Journalism courses internationally. In 1979, Betty was appointed Director of Radio Canada International (RCI) in Montreal, in charge of the corporation's shortwave service -- the highest executive position a woman could then achieve. At the outset of her ten-year regime at RCI, Betty was unhappy with the nebulous relationship between the CBC and External Affairs and its potential effect on RCI operations. As a result of her insistence on having that relationship defined, the CBC Board of Directors eventually declared that External Affairs could not influence RCI's news and information operations. Another highlight of Betty's RCI directorship came in 1988, when Canada launched an extensive shortwave service to Asia and the Pacific Rim in five different languages. She retired the following year. Early in her career, Betty was an actor and director at the Ottawa Little Theatre, performed with the Orpheus Society, and was active with the Ottawa Children's Theatre, for which she wrote three plays. She was involved with the Ottawa Film Society as well, serving as its president in 1958-59. Throughout her life, her ever-changing interests were vast and often surprising. She was a fisher, a collector, a film buff, a refurbisher-cum-vendor of garage sale finds, a lover of mystery books, and an enthusiastic cook. She took up Aquasize in her 70s and tap-dancing at 80. Betty was dynamic and funny right until the end, which, if she'd had the chance, she would have pronounced "tiresome." Betty was predeceased by her parents, Elizabeth and Harry Zimmerman, her brother Jack, and her brother Bill, all originally of Winnipeg. Among those who will miss her are Hellie Wilson, Hellie's nephew Paul Tingley and niece Helen Foster (Elmer), her sisters-in-law Sheila Zimmerman and Florence Brownridge, her nephew John, her nieces Kate (Ron Shewchuk) and Frances (Peter Findlay) their children and dear friend of many years Jackie Park. At Betty's request, there will be no funeral. For those wishing, donations may be made to any charity supporting children or animals. Condolences/Donations at: www.mcgarryfamily.ca .
Published in Montreal Gazette on Jan. 31, 2009
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