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Epilogue | Ann Howard Morgan

Clearwater woman had TV talk show long before Oprah

CLEARWATER — Ann Morgan set her own course. She had a television talk show decades before Oprah and snagged a young Clint Eastwood as a guest.

In an era when society expected women to marry and settle down, she pursued a career first. In Clearwater since 1973, she sold advertising, worked for a bank and owned a retail store. She drove with a heavy foot — friends called her "Miss Andretti" — and took challenges head on.

Mrs. Morgan died July 9 of congestive heart failure. She was 88 and had been in and out of hospice care since 2005.

She grew up in New York as Ann Howard, a surname her Norwegian ancestors adapted from "Holtvedt."

She graduated from City College, freelanced for the New York Times, then worked for Parents magazine. She was on assignment when she met Cyril Morgan at a convention.

He was 13 years older, a foot taller and not as outgoing. She was the style to his substance.

They married in 1956. When his food brokerage business took them to Roanoke, Va., Mrs. Morgan persuaded the local CBS affiliate to let her produce a daytime television show, Panorama.

Mrs. Morgan welcomed Eastwood during his Rawhide period, and chopped vegetables with Julia Child before The French Chef. Purveyors of Coleman lanterns and popup trailers pitched to her television audience at the start of a camping craze.

Mrs. Morgan also sold her own advertising to support the show, which she continued until 1963.

The family moved to Clearwater in 1973. Mrs. Morgan conducted a radio talk show — again, paid for by advertising she secured — then talked Clearwater Savings and Loan into creating a position for her as public relations director.

In 1977 she opened the Shipwrecked Norwegian, a gift shop on Clearwater Beach with curios from Norway, Denmark and Sweden. Mrs. Morgan greeted visitors in Norwegian dress, serving them Norwegian coffee and butter cookies. She later moved the store to Cleveland Street.

Her husband died in 1991. Mrs. Morgan remained active in the Sons of Norway.

At the Oaks of Clearwater, a retirement community, she had just one request.

"She said, 'I would do anything for a rare steak,' " activities director Christine Bles recalled. The Oaks doesn't generally serve steak, she said.

Bles recently took Mrs. Morgan and several other residents to the Olive Garden for that rare steak.

"I cut it up into little pieces for her," said Bles, 31. "She had her eyes closed and was looking at the ceiling, saying, 'Oh, God, this is so good.' "

Andrew Meacham can be reached at (727) 892-2248 or ameacham@sptimes.com.

>>Biography

Ann Howard Morgan

Born: March 20, 1921.

Died: July 9, 2009.

Survivors: daughter Elizabeth; son Chip; and two grandchildren.

Clearwater woman had TV talk show long before Oprah 07/13/09 [Last modified: Monday, July 13, 2009 9:00pm]
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