Paul Kenneth TAFF

TAFF, Paul Kenneth

Paul Kenneth Taff, 92, of Glastonbury, died Thursday, January 3, 2013, surrounded by his loving family. He is survived by his wife of 71 years, Dawn, his son Paul and wife Valerie, his son Richard and wife Susan, and his granddaughter Stephanie. He was born in Belleville, IL on Jan. 21, 1920, one of seven children of Benjamin Harrison Taff and Louise Ada Wehmeier. He is also survived by his brother Rollie and wife Marion, his sister Lois Stroh and husband Robert, his sister Ruth Brewer, and many nieces and nephews. He graduated from Belleville High School and from Millikin University in Decatur, Illinois, where he was president of the student council and lettered in baseball. He subsequently received a masters degree from Northwestern University and an honorary doctorate of humane letters from the University of New Haven. During his college years at Millikin, he met the love of his life, Dawn Odell, to whom he proposed on Valentine's Day, 1941, and married five months later on July 13th. While at college, he took his first broadcasting job at radio station WSOY in Decatur. After college he worked at radio station KFUO in St. Louis announcing, and writing and producing programs. When World War II began, he volunteered and was soon selected to join the Counter Intelligence Corps of the Military Intelligence Service. Assignments took him throughout the United States and around the world with stops in Casablanca, Tripoli, Cairo, India, Australia, the Philippines, Okinawa and Hawaii. After the war he resumed his broadcast career by returning to KFUO radio where he became assistant program director. His broadcasting career steadily advanced thereafter with him holding various positions at radio and television stations in Chicago, Decatur and Milwaukee. In 1960, he moved east and became director of children's programs, director of program operations and assistant program director for National Educational Television (NET), the predecessor of the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS); president, CEO and president emeritus of Connecticut Educational Television Corporation, which subsequently became Connecticut Public Television (CPTV) and then Connecticut Public Broadcasting; and president and president emeritus of Connecticut Broadcasters Association. His proudest achievement while at NET was acquiring a children's program being locally produced in Pittsburgh by the name of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood and arranging for its distribution to a national educational television audience. He served as executive producer and announcer on the early programs and remained good friends with Fred Rogers thereafter, frequently vacationing at his cottage on Nantucket. He was also instrumental in securing the funding to allow Julia Child's first cooking program, the French Chef, to be distributed nationwide on educational television stations. While president of CPTV, he led the efforts to bring public radio to Connecticut in 1978 and, in recognition of that leading role, the call letters of Connecticut's first public radio station were subsequently changed to WPKT in his honor. During his career he served on many boards and commissions that focused on children's television programs or public broadcasting, including one that planned Sesame Street and one that planned the Connecticut Network (CT-N) which provides television coverage of state government. He also served on the Connecticut Ethics Commission and the State Board of Academic Awards. Among the many awards he received were the Belleville High School outstanding alumni award; Millikin University alumni merit award; National Educational Award for Excellence; National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, Boston-New England Chapter, Silver Circle Award and Gold Circle Award for significant contributions to the television industry for 25 and 50 years, respectively; Connecticut Public Broadcasting Network Founders Award; and Connecticut Broadcasters Association Lifetime Achievement Award, together with the establishment of a CBA scholarship in his name. Although during his long life and broadcasting career he traveled extensively, attended events like the launching of a spacecraft at Cape Canaveral and a reception at the White House, and interviewed or met First Ladies, Prime Ministers, Hall of Fame baseball stars, radio, television and movie celebrities and many other notable persons, he was a small town Midwestern boy at heart who was happiest when walking on the beach at Eel Point, spending time with his granddaughter, delighting the neighborhood children by dressing up as Big Bird on Halloween, reading mystery novels, telling stories or just sitting on his deck at home with his beloved wife and family.
At his request there will be no calling hours. A memorial service will be held on Saturday, Jan. 19 at 2 p.m. at The Lutheran Church of St. Mark, 75 Griswold St., Glastonbury. In lieu of flowers, donations in his memory may be made to the Connecticut Broadcasters Association for the Paul K. Taff Scholarship, c/o Mike Rice, 90 South Park St., Willimantic, CT 06226.

Published in The Hartford Courant on Jan. 7, 2013