Grace Penny, a long-time resident of Owego, N.Y., passed away from cancer on Sept. 17, 2018 in Land O Lakes, Fla. She was 82.
Penny, along with her husband Frank, had raised their family in Owego for over 30 years. Among the many aspects of her inspiring life and career, which included a passion for the arts that led to her involvement and spearheading the arts and crafts exhibit at the Tioga County Fair in the 1970’s, Grace was also known for her show at WEBO, dubbed “Coffee Club.”
Grace’s husband, Frank, and Warren Haas were owners of WEBO during the 1960’s through the 1980’s, yet it was Grace’s familiar voice that was an audience favorite on the local airwaves during the 1970’s.
Frank Penny explained that he and Haas were looking for a new venture together in a small market radio station, and relocated to Owego because they liked the area, plus the price was right.
A disc jockey in his early days, Frank shared, too, that he met Grace at a radio station while still in Connecticut, and were married in 1961.
Hank Sommers, a well-known on-air personality for decades, co-hosted the “Coffee Club” show with Grace. Both worked out of WEBO’s early properties, one being the second floor of a house on McMaster Street and another located inside what we know today as the Owego Treadway.
Now retired after some 50 years as a broadcaster and sales representative, Sommers reminisced about the early days of radio.
“It was real radio, and where we interviewed people live on the air,” Sommers said, adding, “Grace played a big part of those radio days.”
Sommers chuckled as he shared a story about Grace’s idea to interview Navy and Coast Guard personnel involved with the decommissioning of a ship.
“Keep in mind that there was no satellite back in the mid 1970’s,” Sommers remarked, and giving a nod to Grace’s creativity with pulling together unique on-air guests, he said, “This particular interview was even more challenging because these folks were talking live with us from far away,” and paused before he added, “They were in Alaska.”
When local sales and marketing and public relations and media professional, Mary Jury Roper started as a broadcaster at WEBO in the early 1980’s, she commented, “Grace took me under her wing.”
Roper described Grace as a second mother, and when she left WEBO after eight years to pursue other opportunities, that “mother/daughter” relationship continued.
“Grace was one-of-a-kind and involved in so much,” Roper said.
Born in Hartford, Conn., Grace moved to Land O Lakes, Florida in 1999. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in theatre from Denison University in Granville, Ohio, and that love for theatre carried over to Owego’s Ti-Ahwaga Players, where she often led efforts to craft and set up scenes, along with other work behind the stage.
Grace also earned a Master’s Degree in Education from SUNY-Binghamton. A special youth education teacher at BOCES for over 20 years, Grace also shared her passion for teaching later in her life with adults, and where she held art classes in Binghamton and water aerobics sessions in Florida.
Musically inclined, Grace learned to play piano at age four, along with various other instruments. Throughout her life she enjoyed storytelling, tatting, needlework and fine art projects and also traveled extensively across the U.S. and abroad. Grace and her family often took trips to the Great Lakes where they enjoyed sailing.
Frank said that their love for travel took the couple to North and South America, the South Pacific and Europe, as well as Canada, and near the Arctic Circle.
Frank commented, “She was never bored,” adding, “And she liked talking to people, too.”
Frank remarked that one time while waiting in the car for Grace after an event, a long time went by before he realized she had taken up a conversation with someone new, and he said, “Grace never met a stranger.”
Grace is survived by her husband of 57 years, Frank E. Penny, daughter Verna, brother Ernest O. Hunt, Jr. and his wife Becky, sister Katherine Harvey and her husband Leroy, granddaughter Carla P. Penny, and many other loving family and friends. She is preceded in death by her son, Lance G. Penny.
A Celebration of Life is planned in Lutz, Florida on Oct. 20.
The full obituary can be viewed at http://m.loylessfuneralhomes.com/obituaries/wall?obituaryId=3321345.