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Helen Frankfurt

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.

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