Dec. 15, 1958 - May 4, 2017
Regular listeners of the former WEBR 970 AM Radio back in the early 1980s likely remember the mellifluous speaking voice of Ann M. Reynolds Carden. It was well-modulated and honey-toned, with just a hint of the lilt of her native Martinsburg, W. Va.
Carden, who later moved from the field of broadcast journalism to public relations before launching a career in academia, died May 4 in Angola following a long battle with cancer. She was 58.
It was her early career in broadcast journalism that brought Carden to Western New York from Martinsburg, where she graduated high school in 1976. Carden earned a bachelor's degree in broadcast journalism from West Virginia University in 1980 before launching her broadcasting career as a news director at WRNR in Martinsburg.
In 1982, Carden moved to Buffalo to become a news anchor at WEBR and went on to work as an anchor at several other radio stations in the city after which she switched to a career in public relations. Over the next 16 years, Carden worked for several nonprofit health care organizations, including Millard Fillmore Health System, Kaleida Health, Buffalo Hearing and Speech Center, and the Visiting Nurses Association.
Carden also operated her own public relations consulting firm, ARC Communications, and was active in the Public Relations Society of America, holding numerous positions for the Buffalo Niagara chapter, including president. While working full time, Carden obtained a master's degree in public relations management from SUNY Buffalo State College, which was the springboard for the third act of her professional life as a professor of public relations at SUNY Fredonia College.
"Her passion was always to teach," said Mary Holl of Angola, who first became good friends with Carden when they both worked for the Visiting Nurses Association.
Carden managed to bridge her love of teaching to two other lifelong passions, all things connected with the historic Route 66 and the May 4, 1970, shooting of unarmed students on the Kent State University campus by the Ohio National Guard. She was a veritable font on information on both topics, according to Sarah Britton Cote of Milton, Vermont, a friend and former colleague of Carden from their days working together at WEBR.
"When she found a topic like that, she would just throw herself into it and find out all she could about it," said Britton Cote.
She noted that Carden's fascination with Kent State extended beyond the day of tragedy on the campus, but with a particular emphasis on how the university handled it from a public relations perspective.
A well-groomed sense of nostalgia piqued her interest in the old Route 66 that predated today's modern U.S. highway system. In recent years, Carden covered the old route in its entirety, with Britton Cote joining her on the road for a large part of the trip.
"We'd just get in a car and drive hundreds of miles a day. We went from the east coast to California up to Salt Lake City and Yellowstone and Mount Rushmore," Britton Cote recalled.
Carden eschewed GPS technology while on the road.
"She just loved the smell of a map, and she had a wonderful sense of direction. Even if we got off-track, she enjoyed figuring out how to get there," Britton Cote added.
Carden, she noted, was genuinely fascinated by the various artifacts of roadside America from the mid 20th century and some of the more recent oddities that sprang from it.
"I can't tell you how many 'world's largest' things we saw, world's largest fork and the world's largest ball of twine. She loved that stuff. And she took her love of Route 66 into the classroom. This past semester was the first semester she offered a class on Route 66. Unfortunately, she didn't get to see the end of it, but she put together the whole syllabus," Britton Cote said.
In 2013, Carden was promoted to associate professor and was given the President’s Excellence in Teaching and Learning Award in 2017. Holl said Carden was devoted to her students.
"The way I've always described Ann is, she was like this beautiful free spirit. She had a thirst for knowledge. She loved trivia," Holl said.
Carden is survived by a daughter, Margaret M.; a son, Stephen M.; a step-son Christian D.; a step-daughter Emily Carden Horvath; a sister, Vanda White Stohlman; a half-brother, John Thomas Reynolds, and several grandchildren and step-grandchildren
A funeral service was set for Friday in Martinsburg.