WDN remembers Baumgardt

Published 11:25 pm Wednesday, August 8, 2012

There was a time at the Washington Daily News when employees celebrated everything from beans to traffic lights. The mastermind behind these potluck extravaganzas has passed away.
Former Creative Director Jenny Baumgardt had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. She left the paper in April, moving to Eugene, Oregon, to be with one of her two sons.
“Jenny Baumgardt contributed much to the newspaper through her talents and hard work, but more importantly, she touched those who knew her,” said Ashley Vansant, publisher of the Daily News. “It was a sad day for the Washington Daily News family, but our memories of Jenny are happy — her simple kindness, her sharp sense of humor.”
Daily News Advertising Representative Amy Whitaker described her former boss as one of the best friends she ever had.
“She was a mentor, mom, friend and sister all rolled into one,” Whitaker said. “Everything I know about this job… she taught me.”
Whitaker said Baumgardt could take rudimentary ideas and turn them into award-winning advertisements. She did her job with ease and was good at putting others at ease with the simple phrase, “We’ll fix it.”
One of Baumgardt’s responsibilities was to update a dry erase calendar that hung near her desk. She always went the extra mile, adding clip art and finding at least one “national day” to celebrate.
Former Daily News Publisher Ashley “Brownie” Futrell said Baumgardt was always more than an employee to him.
“She was a member of the family,” he said. “From the time she started, it was like she had been there for years.”
Baumgardt impressed Ray McKeithan, former publisher of the Daily News, with her work ethic.
“She would do whatever was required without complaining yet she would always give me input on how she thought things should be and I appreciated her being so frank,” McKeithan said. “Jenny was a woman without pretense. She was who she was and was very comfortable in her own skin. I considered her a very good friend and someone I was honored to work with. She had exceptional character and strong faith. I am deeply saddened, will miss my friend, ‘Jenny B.’”
Baumgardt had a big heart but never wanted the recognition for her good deeds.
Her brother, Danny Sleeper, said Baumgardt was always there for his family. When his kids were diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, Baumgardt was there to help in any way she could.
“What I will remember most about her was when our daughter died (at 14) she was right there,” Sleeper said. “She was great.”
When a co-worker’s husband was diagnosed with diabetes, Baumgardt started bringing them meals two to three nights a week.
Cooking was a favorite pastime of hers. Sleeper said she was a gourmet cook who sometimes got carried away with chopping food into fine little cubes.
Sleeper’s favorite meal of hers was a recipe Baumgardt created.
“Shiny meat,” Sleeper said. “They were candied ribs, her own recipe. It was so good.”
Baumgardt and Sleeper’s wife, Carolyn, were best friends. When the Sleepers moved to Washington on July 4, 2004, Baumgardt made the move, too. She had 15 years of advertising experience in Norfolk, Va., where she was born and raised and started as a paginator at the Daily News before climbing the ranks to creative director.
“She enjoyed doing the paper and she was good at it. I don’t think she gave herself enough credit for being good at it,” Sleeper said.
Arrangements for a memorial service will be announced. There will not be a funeral as Baumgardt donated her body to science, family members said.