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Vicki Santa, WMNF's 'heart and soul,' dies at 56

TAMPA — Vicki Santa, a longtime manager for Tampa's community radio station, died Tuesday at St. Joseph's Hospital.

She had survived cancer, but died of a pulmonary embolism and pneumonia, her sister said.

Ms. Santa, of Tampa, was 56.

"Vicki's been the heart and soul of WMNF for a long time," said Randy Wynne, program director at the station, which broadcasts on 88.5 FM.

The stationed moved into a $2.2-million, 13,000-square-foot building on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in 2005. Wynne called the bright gold and red building a monument to Ms. Santa.

It served as a landmark for how far the radio station came under her direction. She stepped aside this year. A former builder and contractor, she became involved with WMNF as a volunteer who took a week off work in the spring and fall to help with the station's pledge drives.

Employees called her "our marathon mother," Wynne said.

In 1998, when the station needed a development director, Ms. Santa jumped at the job, though it meant a major pay cut. Two years later, when the station's board of directors desperately needed a station manager, it turned to Santa.

She was known around the community as a programmer of the Freak Show, a radio show devoted to jam bands and the Grateful Dead, her favorite group.

It airs every Tuesday from 7 to 9 p.m. This week's show was devoted to Ms. Santa.

Ms. Santa is survived by her mother, Phyllis M. Santa of St. Petersburg; partner of 31 years, Kenneth Wilson; and her sister, Shelley Santa of Seattle, the sister said. WMNF plans to hold a public celebration of her life at 6 p.m. Monday at Skipper's Smokehouse, 910 Skipper Road, Tampa.

Times staff writer Eric Deggans contributed to this report. Justin George can be reached at (813) 226-3368 or jgeorge@sptimes.com.

Vicki Santa, WMNF's 'heart and soul,' dies at 56 12/09/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 10, 2008 5:44pm]
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