[Baltimore Sun] Elizabeth Jane Began, former Maryland Public Television director, dies at 73

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Elizabeth Jane Began, a former Maryland Public Television director who covered the Olympics during her lengthy career, died from cancer complications April 5 in Vierra Falls Church, a care facility in Virginia. The former West Towson resident was 73.

Born in Owosso, Michigan, she was daughter of Margaret Siess, a teacher, and Vincent Began, a farmer and brewery employee. She was known as Jane because as a child she could not pronounce Elizabeth.

She graduated from St. Paul School in Owosso and earned her degree in secondary education and communication from Western Michigan University.

Ms. Began joined WUHQ-TV in Battle Creek, Michigan, and worked her way up from studio engineer to producer and director. She later moved to WKBS in Philadelphia as a production manager.

She was executive producer of the Philadelphia 76ers basketball telecasts and served as a board member of the local chapter of American Women in Radio and Television.

Early in the 1980s she took a position in Hollywood with Chris Craft Video before moving on to NBC as a unit manager for daytime dramas, prime-time series and game shows — including “Days of Our Lives” and “Punky Brewster” — and Rose Bowl broadcasts. She also was part of NBC’s coverage of the Seoul, Sydney, Atlanta and Salt Lake City Olympics.

Ms. Began moved to Baltimore in 1989 as director of production for the National and International Production Division with Maryland Public Television.

“She treasured a Russian Navy sailors cap that she was given during a party on a Russian ship at Cannes during her time at MPT. She eventually used it as part of a Halloween costume,” said her partner, Kathleen “Kathy” Conklin.

She lived in West Towson and was a volunteer at the Irvine Nature Center. She hiked at Oregon Ridge and the Northern Central Railroad Trail. She was also a frequent visitor to the Ladew Topiary Gardens.

“Another highlight while at MPT was getting to tramp through the water at Chincoteague with the Kratts brothers, who had a show called ‘Kratts’ Creatures.’ It was a children’s show about animal habitats,” said Ms. Conklin.

“Jane was a vivacious and a fun person. She was a great hostess and a true professional in her job. She knew her subject matter,”  said George Beneman, an MPT senior vice president.

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Ms. Began moved to Northern Virginia and spent the remainder of her career at Public Broadcasting Service headquarters in Arlington, Virginia. She was a past revenue assurance manager.

“Her experience in television production was invaluable when reviewing contracts for PBS shows,” said her partner.

Ms. Began traveled widely and toured Cuba where, guided by photos from a family album, she followed her mother’s footsteps from an early 1950s trip.

She also favored a small barge trip of 10 days on the Canal du Midi in Southern France.

“Jane was passionate about animals, especially her feline and canine companions, and spoke to them in the kookiest of ways,” said her partner. “She had a special place in her heart for horses and channeled her love of them by volunteering for 15 years at Lift Me Up, an equine-assisted therapy center in Great Falls, Virginia.”

Ms. Began kept a pet frog she fed and checked on daily. The frog lived in a backyard drain.

“Jane could whip up a feast in any kind of kitchen,” said her partner. “She was also talented behind a bar and just as comfortable in front of one too. A wonderful memory for her was dining at a table with one of her heroes, Julia Child, in New Orleans, while Jane was there for a conference.”

Maureen Royer, a cousin, wrote, “Jane was such an individual. Independent, headstrong, reserved, but with a quick wit. She was hilarious. I loved making her laugh.”

Survivors include her partner of 30 years, Kathleen “Kathy” Conklin of Falls Church; a brother, Bill Began of Owosso, Michigan; two sisters, Mary Kerscher of Grand Blanc, Michigan, and Madelyn Ryan of Traverse City, Michigan; and five nephews.

A celebration of life is being planned.

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