VIRGINIA PARK — Spending a day with Jeanne Morehead was exhilarating. But it could also be exhausting.
"I was 19 years her junior, and she would wear me out," said her niece and close friend Diane Reger. "She wasn't one to sit around, and she didn't like other people to sit around either. You had to keep up.
"She'd have lists of things for you to do. I never knew her to say she was tired, never knew her to take a nap."
Mrs. Morehead passed away on New Year's Eve from lung cancer. She was 83.
"She had kidney cancer about 20 years ago and then she had breast cancer about 10 years ago," said her daughter, Julie Davis. "This time she couldn't beat it. She was 86 but she didn't sit down until she couldn't stand up anymore."
Mrs. Morehead was born Jeanne Bellew. She grew up on a farm in Des Moines, Iowa. Her parents divorced when she was young and she was raised by her mother, a part-time professional artist.
Neither the pastoral life of a farmer nor the bohemian life of a painter appealed to young Jeanne Bellew, though. She attended the University of Missouri and set out on a career in broadcasting, journalism and advertising. In the 1950s she was a reporter for ABC News, a news writer for a St. Louis television station, and a producer of a local TV show aimed at teenagers in Raleigh, N.C. She also hosted shows in Raleigh and Virginia targeted for housewives and children.
Along the way, she wrote for the women's society section of a now-defunct St. Louis newspaper.
One reason she traveled around the country was that, shortly out of college, she met and married a naval officer named Harry Morehead. They moved wherever the Navy sent him, but she continued to build her career wherever they ended up.
After he left the military he had a couple of jobs and finally ended up working for Household Finance Corp. That work brought the family to Tampa in 1962.
She was raising two young children, but she still found the time and energy to work for an advertising agency. In 1967, she founded her own advertising and public relations company.
For the 20 years the company was a major force in Tampa Bay area business with high-profile retail chains among its clients. Mrs. Morehead was president of the Tampa Ad Federation and the first woman governor of the fourth district of the American Ad Federation.
She retired in the late 1980s, but stayed active in civic and social organizations, including the Tampa Woman's Club, the Tampa Garden Club, the Tampa Gyros, Alpha Chi Omega Sorority, and Feather Sound and Cummings Cove country clubs.
She and her husband divided their time between their Tampa home and properties they owned in Madeira Beach and North Carolina. Her husband died in 2001.
"She was the most generous woman," her daughter said. "If anyone needed help, she was the first one to volunteer to help them."
In the past few years, Reger became Mrs. Morehead's most frequent companion. She lives in Iowa but is retired, and figures that in the past two years she spent more time in Tampa with Mrs. Morehead than she did at home.
"My mother had died, and in a way she became a replacement for my mother," Reger said. "We did everything together. I've lost my aunt and my best friend. Everyone should have an Aunt Jeanne."
Besides her daughter, Mrs. Morehead is survived by her son, Harry Morehead Jr., and two grandchildren.
Marty Clear writes life stories about Tampa residents who have recently passed away. He can be reached at [email protected]