John Begeny, a host and fundraiser for WETA in Washington, D.C., died Aug. 21 after having cancer for a short time. He was 54.
Begeny held the role of executive director of multimedia fundraising at WETA. He started with the station in 1995 as a contractor and was hired in 2001 to lead on-air fundraising. In his roles, he long managed pledge drives for TV services including WETA PBS and WETA UK, as well as for the station’s classical radio station.
In addition, Begeny co-hosted If You Lived Here, which highlights homes and communities in the D.C. region. Begeny and his co-host Christine Wolski received the Best Program Host award at this year’s Capital Emmy Awards.
“He was a cherished colleague, known for his enthusiasm, occasional pranks, creative ideas and warm laugh,” said his Washington Post obituary.
“In addition to having very strong business acumen and driving innovation, John was also a Jack-of-all-trades,” said Jeff Regen, WETA’s VP of membership marketing and development services, in an email. Begeny produced local history and cultural pledge shows such as Washington Cherry Blossoms: A Gift of Friendship, Homefront: WWII in Washington, Discovering Alexandria, Discovering Washington: The 4th of July and Arlington: Heroes, History, and Hamburgers.
“He was extremely creative and did most of the graphics himself,” Regen said.
Born Sept. 23, 1968, in Rockville, Md., Begeny was the son of the late Donald and Nancy Zahn Begeny. He grew up in Ellicott City, Md., where he graduated from Mt. Hebron High School, and went on to the University of Maryland, where he graduated with a degree in business.
Begeny began his early career in the restaurant business and went on to develop an interest in television. He took production classes at Arlington Independent Media in Virginia and produced Video Adventures, a popular program. He was an assistant to the director on the film Boiler Room and an extra in the original 1988 version of Hairspray.
“John was an incomparably loving and kind soul with a unique sense of humor and love of life,” his obituary said. “His positive spirit was infectious, and he could easily make anyone smile.”
Begeny is survived by his sister Lynda Manning (Jim) of Westminster, Md.; brother Mark Begeny (Donna) of McLean, Va; six nieces and nephews, Katelin Manning Harwood (Tim), Hannah Manning, Luke Manning, Abigail Manning, John (“Cal”) Begeny and Jack Begeny; and great-niece Olivia Harwood. He is also survived by twenty-six Begeny and Zahn family cousins, a handful of aunts, and one uncle, Jim Eales. He was predeceased by his nephew, Christopher Manning.
A memorial service is being planned. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests a donation to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, the Hirshberg Foundation, Arlington Independent Media, WETA or a charity of your choice.