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Award-winning St. Louis Public Radio producer Mary Edwards retires after 44 year career

Mary Edwards
Mary Edwards University of Missouri-St. Louis photographer

Q: Mary Edwards, longtime St. Louis Public Radio producer, retires August 31. What’s she planning to do next?

A: In a recent interview with the Belleville News-Democrat, Mary Edwards shared her plans and memories of her 44 year career at St. Louis Public Radio.

“I’ve loved every minute of being here for 44 years,” Edwards said. “Especially love producing the talk show, very fulfilling.”

Edwards said she was grateful to have the opportunity to work with “some really great people” like Don Marsh, Alex Heuer, Evie Hemphill and all the other producers.

After Aug. 31, Edwards is still going to be working part-time as a producer of the broadcasts of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra’s Saturday night and New Year’s Eve concerts.

Edwards also intends to be more active in her church, volunteer at the food pantry and enjoy time with family.

“I‘m at the age where it’s time to give it up,” Edwards said. She plans to spend more time in nature and the literature world.

“I got my senior pass to the national parks, and I hope to see a few of those,” Edwards said.

“I’ve got books and films stacked up,” she said. “All this time I’ve been working, it can be hard to find time to read for pleasure.”

She described the job as 24 hours, seven days a week.

“People have suggested I should just slow down a little bit. I can’t do that,” Edwards said. She described herself as running at “full tilt” or not at all.

For 26 years, she also taught a class about radio production at Webster University. Edwards was awarded the 2012 Charles Klotzer Media Literacy Award from the Gateway Media Literacy Partners for her work at the station and the university.

Edwards was inducted into the St. Louis Media History Foundation, Media Hall of Fame in April 2017.

She has been at St. Louis Public Radio for almost as long as it has been in existence, starting in May 1974.

Edwards said she started working the day after she turned in her last college paper at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. She earned her bachelor degree in music.

“I’ve been a listener since the beginning,” she said. When St. Louis Public Radio started, she described it as “primarily a classic music station with some news.”

“I got into this from the music. I was going to be a music teacher,” Edwards said. “We’ve evolved and so have I.” She said it was “gratifying” to see St. Louis Public Radio as it is today.

“I’m really fortunate to have had a job all these years, where even in my last two weeks, I look forward to getting up and coming to work to see what the day may bring,” Edwards said.

Looking back on her career, Edwards most loved “that you may have made a difference in someone’s life.”

“When I see concerns in the community, I can craft a program to address them,” Edwards said. “It’s fun to talk about all the famous people I’ve met over 44 years. But it’s great to bring things to light of people trying to make the community a better place.”

She said if she had the chance to do one more thing to improve the community, it would be to get every kid a mentor. Edwards described it as “the way I grew up.”

“I had parents and a mother who was an ex-teacher, who went to the ends of the earth to make sure we succeeded,” Edwards said.

Technology has changed dramatically since Edwards started her career.

“Back then, we recorded, we had reel-to-reel tape recorders,” she said. Edwards said three state-of-the-art recorders cost $15,000 in 1985.

“You had to have at least two because they only did an hour at a time,” Edwards explained. She remembered splicing the tape.

“You’d mark the spot with a grease pencil and put it in the splicing block, cut it with a razor blade,” she said. “That’s how we edited.”

“I was pretty good at it,” she added.

“Today it’s just a good computer and software and you do the same thing,” Edwards said.

St. Louis Public Radio’s stated mission, according to its website, is: “To inform and provide a deeper understanding and appreciation of events, ideas and cultures for a more inspired and engaged public.”

The station has both local and international news coverage, and talk shows. Some of the programs that can be heard on St. Louis Public Radio include NPR’s “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered.”