Longtime AP reporter, editor Margaret Scherf dies
Feb. 18, 2016
WASHINGTON (AP) — Margaret Scherf, a longtime reporter and editor for The Associated Press whose career spanned four decades and included high-profile stories such as the trial of the Chicago Seven and the Tidal Basin splash by burlesque performer Fanne Foxe, died Monday. She was 75.
Her sister-in-law, Jennifer Scherf, said Scherf died at St. John's Hospital in Springfield, Illinois, after battling ovarian cancer for several years.
Remembered by colleagues as a trailblazer, Scherf joined the AP in Chicago in 1963, hoping to bring a woman's "fresh perspective and insight to a number of reportorial areas now mostly male territory," she wrote in a letter to an AP executive.
In Chicago, she covered the 1968 Democratic Convention and wrote bylined stories about the trial of the Chicago Seven — the defendants who were charged in connection with anti-war protests at the convention.
In 1969, Scherf transferred to Washington and worked as a reporter and editor at AP's Washington Bureau — covering everything from politics, to federal agencies, to stories about the capital city's famous Cherry Blossom trees. Scherf was the first reporter to interview stripper Fanne Foxe, who jumped into the Tidal Basin in 1974 after police stopped the speeding car of her boyfriend, then-Congressman Wilbur Mills.
In the late 90s, Scherf worked on the Metro Desk in Washington until her retirement in 2002. A few years ago, Scherf returned to her hometown of Springfield to be closer to family and her high school friends.
In the 1965 letter introducing herself to Wes Gallagher, AP's general manager at the time, Scherf said she knew in high school that she wanted to be a journalist.
"I wanted to have an exciting career, and I must admit, my decision was influenced a little by the adventures of Brenda Starr and her ilk," said Scherf, referencing the globe-trotting, red-headed comic strip reporter-heroine. Scherf added, "I was nosey, and I was shy. Being a reporter, I thought, would allow me to indulge the nosiness and force me to overcome the shyness."
Before joining the AP, Scherf worked for the Illinois State Journal in Springfield, a job she took after putting herself through college at the University of Illinois.
Scherf loved to travel and was a voracious reader.
"Anything connected to reading was her big thing," said Jennifer Scherf. "She was always reading, one book after another."
Margaret Scherf is survived by her brother, James, and his wife, Jennifer, as well as two nieces, Molly and Kathleen.
Funeral arrangements are pending.