Helen Frankfurt, who retired from a 22-year career with NBC's "Meet the Press" television program, died Oct. 21 at home at Tuscan Manor in Santa Rosa.
The causes were natural, said her stepdaughter, Jo Anne Frankfurt of San Francisco. She was 89.
A native Australian with a penchant for American politics, Frankfurt had a front seat to national discourse from 1967 until she retired in 1989 from "Meet the Press."
As a production assistant, Frankfurt was involved "from soup to nuts" with the interview program, which has aired on Sundays since its television debut in 1947.
During a Jan. 20, 1980, broadcast, President Jimmy Carter announced the United States would boycott the Summer Olympics in Moscow if the Soviet Union did not remove its troops from Afghanistan.
"It was a very interesting, exciting job — she was right in the middle of American politics," Jo Anne Frankfurt said. "She was a news person through and through."
Frankfurt was born Helen Mary Hayes on April 27, 1923, in Armidale, Australia, to Rita and Henry Hayes.
She began her broadcasting career doing clerical work with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, and she moved on to work with television and documentary film producer Tom Manefield.
Her career took a turn in 1966 when she moved to the Washington, D.C., area to be closer to her sister Sheila Marston, who had married a colonel with the U.S. Air Force.
Frankfurt joined "Meet the Press" in 1967 after a brief stint working for a pharmaceutical company. She worked closely with Lawrence Spivak, who created the program with Martha Rountree and was host when Frankfurt was hired.
"She would get up early in the morning and read three to four papers; she was always up on the news," her stepdaughter said. "When she got to the program on Sundays, she would usher the guests in."
Frankfurt met her husband on a tennis court in Arlington, Va., around 1972.
Paul Frankfurt was a Jewish immigrant from Germany who joined the U.S. Army Air Corps and fought in World War II. He directed public relations for military missile programs and, around the time they met, was leading automobile and traffic safety campaigns for the Department of Transportation.
The couple shared a love of politics. They married in 1974.
"We did have lively discussions about the news and politics," Jo Anne Frankfurt said. "She was a gourmet cook, and yes indeed, we would have these discussions over dinner."
Frankfurt retired in 1990 at 66. She and her husband moved across the country to Oakmont to be closer to his children, who both live in the Bay Area. He died in 1997.
Frankfurt played with the Oakmont Niners golf club. She also lived at Varenna at Fountaingrove and Tuscan Manor.
In addition to her stepdaughter, Frankfurt is survived by her sister Patricia Walsh of Canberra, Australia, and stepson Michael Frankfurt of Berkeley.
A memorial service will be held 11 a.m. Dec. 1 at Star of the Valley Catholic Church, 495 White Oak Drive, Santa Rosa. Memorial donations may be made to a charity or organization in her name.
— Julie Johnson