Deborah Broadnax Woodbury, 60, history aide at Penn

Posted: August 29, 2014

WHEN Deborah Broadnax was starting her course in radio, television and film at Temple University, her professor made a disheartening prediction.

Looking around the lecture hall, professor Norman Felsenthal said that out of more than 100 students, "only three of you will actually work in television news."

Deborah said to herself, "Well, I'm going to be one of the three."

And she was.

She worked in various capacities in TV news for Fox 29 and KYW Channel 3 for several years before moving into academia for another of her numerous careers.

Deborah Broadnax Woodbury, as she became after marrying Anthony Woodbury in 1988, a onetime fashion model, TV news editor, retail merchandiser and assistant in the University of Pennsylvania history department, died Aug. 24 of pneumonia. She was 60 and lived in South Philadelphia.

"You name it and she did it," her family said in a tribute.

Deborah was born to Edward and Loressia Broadnax and graduated from South Philadelphia High School. Her first modeling stint came when she participated in the Miss Black Pennsylvania Beauty Pageant in 1974. She didn't win, but it gave her a taste for prancing in front of an audience.

Oddly enough, Deborah was running the elevator at Saks Fifth Avenue in Beverly Hills, Calif., years later when the store's fashion coordinator asked her if she had ever modeled.

"Yes, I know how to model," she exaggerated. And she became an in-house model for Saks.

It was in Los Angeles that she came upon Webster Career College and signed up for a course in fashion marketing. She returned to Philadelphia and took a job at Gimbels department store, where she considered trying to become a buyer. Instead, she enrolled at Temple.

Deborah's first job out of Temple was as a production assistant, then field producer, teleprompter operator and, finally, planning editor, gathering and preparing news stories for the 10 p.m. broadcast. From there, she went to Channel 3 as an assignment editor, working the overnight shift.

"She was a crack newswoman, and always figured out a way to get the story while maintaining integrity and savvy," her family said.

Deborah then became an editorial assistant for the Journal of Theoretical Biology. When the journal moved to Santa Fe, she joined Penn's American Civilization Department and retired in 2012 from the Department of Africana Studies.

"My mother was one of the kindest, most generous, witty, intelligent, stylish and overall fabulous women I ever knew," said her daughter, Holly A. Woodbury. "She had this great gift of being able to communicate and make friends with any person she met."

"I was the luckiest husband in the world," said her husband, Anthony. "I know I was envied by many husbands. Debbie made my life so full and happy."

She also is survived by three sisters, Sandra Burney, Loretta London and Tamara Frazier; a stepdaughter, Adrienne; and a granddaughter, Bria.

Services: 11 a.m. Saturday at the Church of the Redeemer, 24th and Dickinson streets. Friends may call at 9 a.m.

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