Patricia Gates Lynch Ewell, 85, a onetime disc jockey who had a long career as a popular radio host for the Voice of America and served as the U.S. ambassador to Madagascar, died Dec. 4 at her home at the Fairfax at Fort Belvoir retirement community.
Her son, Lawrence Gates, said she had ovarian cancer.
Mrs. Ewell briefly served as a press aide to first lady Pat Nixon. She began her radio career on the Falls Church station WFAX-AM in the late 1950s as one of the first female disc jockeys in the Washington area and was known on the air as Pat Gates.
In addition to spinning records, she conducted interviews from a studio set up behind windows in a music store at the Seven Corners shopping center. Her guests included dancer Fred Astaire; singers Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme; and actors Charles Laughton, Maurice Chevalier and Tyrone Power.
In 1962, Mrs. Ewell joined the Voice of America, a federally sponsored radio network that broadcasts outside the United States. She soon became a host of the long-running “Breakfast Show.”
The daily news-and-interview program was heard by tens of millions of listeners around the world. News accounts said the show often drew larger audiences than the widely celebrated jazz broadcasts of VOA DJ Willis Conover.
For several months in 1969, Mrs. Ewell served as a press aide to Pat Nixon, traveling on official visits overseas with the first lady. After her boss was ousted in a White House shakeup, Mrs. Ewell returned to the VOA and resumed her job with the “Breakfast Show.”
She interviewed many entertainment stars and delivered reports on cultural, scientific and industrial developments in the United States. Mrs. Ewell and her co-host, Phil Irwin, occasionally went on good-will tours to meet the VOA’s international listeners.
In 1986, President Ronald Reagan appointed Mrs. Ewell ambassador to Madagascar and the Comoros Islands, off the east coast of Africa. She held the post until 1989.
When she returned to Washington, she became director of public relations and corporate affairs for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, federally supported broadcasting efforts designed to reach listeners in Communist-controlled countries of Eastern Europe.
Patricia Ann Lawrence was born in Newark on April 20, 1926, and grew up in New Canaan, Conn. She appeared in theatrical productions in her youth.
In the late 1940s and 1950s, she worked in Western Europe, the Soviet Union and other countries as a radio reporter for NBC and for what is now the American Forces Radio and Television Service.
After retiring from Radio Free Europe in the mid-1990s, Mrs. Ewell served in several groups devoted to diplomacy and international affairs. She was chairman of the board of the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training and vice president of the Council of American Ambassadors. She was also a past president of the Washington chapter of American Women in Radio and Television (now the Alliance for Women in Media).
She lived for many years in the Calvert County community of Scientists’ Cliffs and was a member of the American News Women’s Club, Sulgrave Club and Cosmos Club.
Her first marriage, to Army Brig. Gen. Mahlon Gates, ended in divorce.
Her second husband, retired Army Col. William D. Lynch, died in 1997.
Her third husband, retired Army Lt. Gen. Julian J. Ewell, died in 2009.
Survivors include two children from her first marriage, Pamela Belanger of Denver and Lawrence Gates of Memphis; three granddaughters; and a great-granddaughter.
On the VOA’s “Breakfast Show,” Mrs. Ewell became known for her sign-off at the end of each program: “If you meet someone without a smile, give him one of yours.”
She wrote in a 2008 memoir that she received letters from people all over the world remarking on how they were touched by her simple statement.