The WGBH community mourns the loss of A. Beth DuVal Deare, the former producer of Say Brother (now Basic Black) and several award-winning documentaries, who died Mon, 2/21, in a fire at her home in Newton.
Beth, who was battling brain cancer at the time of her death, worked on Say Brother from 1978 to 1988, and won an Emmy Award for In the Matter of Levi Heart, a documentary about a Boston Police shooting — one of 13 Emmys and a Peabody Award she earned during her tenure at WGBH).
“WGBH is saddened by this loss. Beth was a very talented producer and someone who helped connect WGBH with others in the community,” says VP for Communications and Government Relations Jeanne Hopkins.
Beth also produced Beacon to Freedom: Black Life in the Bay Colony, which she finished in 2008 while undergoing treatment for throat cancer. She produced American Experience’s Midnight Ramble, a 1994 film about the history of black filmmaking.
“If you did not know Beth, I’m sorry, because you would have liked to,” says Radio’s Phillip Martin. “She was one of the best hearts and souls in this world, and certainly in public television. She produced my television drama The Nine Voices of Christmas, for which we won a Prized Pieces award. Her tragic loss is a loss for us all. Rest in peace, dear friend.”
Radio’s Callie Crossley offered her remembrances of Beth today, 2/22, on Morning Edition with Bob Seay on 89.7 WGBH.
Beth taught in the English department at Bunker Hill Community College. Beth’s family (which includes former ’GBHer Lynn DuVal Luse) said in a statement: “We take comfort in knowing that the cancer she fought for more than five years will no longer consume her and that her vast family and extended family–including students, and friends around the world–will keep her in love and prayer.”
WGBH.ORG has a page where remembrances may be posted.
Beth’s family will hold a public gathering in March; watch for updated information. Condolences may be sent to the family via Beth’s sister (and former ’GBHer) Lynn DuVal Luse, 40 Linwood Street, Roxbury, MA, 02119.
The family of Beth Deare is devastated by the news of our loved one’s passing. We were informed early Monday morning that our sister’s residence was engulfed in flames and shortly thereafter learned that our fears were realized. The police confirmed that we lost our dear one in the tragic fire.We will spend this time remembering that Beth’s life was full with incredible highs, ranging from her loving daughter and three grandchildren to her many awards and accolades for her acclaimed work in television and film, including 13 Emmys and a Peabody.
We take comfort in knowing that the cancer she fought so valiantly for more than five years will no longer consume her and that her vast family and extended family — including students, and friends around the world — will keep her in love and prayer.
We thank everyone for all the love and condolences already coming in from as far as the African continent. A “Celebration of Life” is being planned for Beth on Saturday, March 26, 2011, and a memorial fund is being established in her honor. A portion of the proceeds from that fund will help the other families impacted by the fire to rebuild. She loved them dearly and with your help we can honor them in her name.
Lynn DuVal Luse and John Aki DuVal,
Beth’s loving siblings
Robin Washington, a former Boston Herald reporter who worked as a freelance reporter and producer on “Say Brother” in the 1980s, said in a phone interview from his home in Duluth, Minn. that Deare was a wonderful mentor at WGBH.
“She had a total passion and commitment to the community she was covering, uncompromisingly so,” said Washington, who is currently the editor of the Duluth News Tribune.
He recalled examining viewer data for “Say Brother” with Deare at one point and learning that 40 percent of the show’s audience was black.
“Since the majority of the audience seemed to be white, I said, ‘Well maybe we should change the focus of the show,’” Washington said. “And her response was, ‘Absolutely not.’ She said, ‘If [most people] watching this are white people, then they’re watching it because it is a black show.’”
Washington said he last saw Deare in October, when he returned to Boston to appear on WGBH radio to discuss a documentary he produced on John Coltrane, “My Favorite Things at 50.”
“Even though she was frail and her throat was scratchy and she was a little hard to understand, she was every bit the firebrand she always had been,” he said.