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Wendi Winters, killed in Maryland shooting, devoted more than two decades to community journalism

Capital Gazette reporter Wendi Winters was identified as victim of a shooting at the newspaper.
Capital Gazette reporter Wendi Winters was identified as victim of a shooting at the newspaper. (Courtesy of Baltimore Sun Media Group)
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Wendi Winters, 65, of Edgewater, Md., was an editor and community reporter for the Capital Gazette, where she wrote weekly columns, hundreds of feature articles and oversaw editing of the local’s special editions.

Winters was one of five people killed when a man with a vendetta against the Annapolis newspaper fired a shotgun through the newsroom’s glass doors and at its employees in a targeted shooting Thursday, according to police.

Five dead, suspect identified at Jarrod Ramos, in custody after targeted shooting at Capital Gazette building in Annapolis, police say

The mother of four dedicated more than two decades of her career to community journalism, spotlighting local youth in her “Teen of the Week” columns, pointing out little-known but charming attractions in Maryland in her “Off Limits” series and covering the arts scene in Anne Arundel County and beyond.

No matter was too provincial, no event too pedestrian and no neighbor too ordinary for Winters to notice in her weekly dispatches. She featured an elderly couple retiring after a half-century of running a local diner and made an abandoned missile site sound like a worthy Saturday afternoon jaunt.

Winters made the mundane marvelous. It was all important because it was her community. It was the place she raised her four children and saw some of them become Naval officers. It was the place where her father, a Naval Academy graduate, met and proposed to her mother. And it was the place she started over with a new career and passion.

Winters spent the first part of her work life in the fashion industry as a public relations consultant and executive for New York City firm, including the boutique firm she founded in 1981, Wendi Winters Public Relations, according to her LinkedIn page.

For nearly a decade, Winters organized fashion shows, advertising and publicity campaigns for clients such as JC Penney’s, Sears Roebuck & Company and Gimbels.

But after moving to Maryland, she made a career change and began freelancing locally for more than a dozen Baltimore and Washington-area publications, writing about fashion, the arts and local community events. She used the skills she earned promoting fashion to shoot her own photos, film her own video and become a one-woman multimedia machine.

Winters’s body of work earned her local journalism awards and endearing the 6-foot tall writer with the mop of curly, red hair to the community.

“Everyone in the city knew Wendi Winters. She was at every event,” said Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley. His spokeswoman Susan O’Brien said Winters, who she knew for at least 25 years, was a fixture at city parades and celebrations.

After 11 years of freelancing for the Capital Gazette, she became a full-time staff writer at the newspaper in 2013 and an editor in 2016, according to various publication websites containing her work biography.

Winters was deeply embedded in the Annapolis community, where she was known for organizing a “P.R. Bazaar,” an annual event designed to connect the public and local groups to members of the press in a small group setting. Winters and her family hosted the most recent “Meet the Press” event in April at her local church, where it had taken place for several years, according the web announcements of the event.

In résumé sites and biographies, Winters said she wrote 275 to 350 feature articles annually. She said she was a Girl Scout leader and church youth adviser at her local Unitarian Universalist Church.

Read profiles of the other victims: Rob Hiaasen, John McNamara, Rebecca Smith, Gerald Fischman

One of four daughters, Winters was born in San Diego to the late U.S. Navy Cmdr. Leigh Cosart Winters and Dorothy Breuninger Winters, a Capitol Hill secretary, said a 2009 obituary for her mother in the Alexandria Gazette Packet. She grew up in Northern Virginia and earned a fine arts bachelor’s degree in fashion design from Virginia Commonwealth University. She also was a fashion student at the Tobe-Coburn School for Fashion Careers.

Winters was never too far removed from Navy life. She married a military officer and son of another naval commander in 1987, a wedding announcement in the New York Times said. Three of her adult children, Winters Leigh Geimer, Phoenix Winters Geimer and Montana Geimer, currently serve in the U.S. Navy, and either graduated or teach at the Naval Academy, where her father became an officer in 1940.

Winters’s youngest daughter, Summer Leigh Geimer, graduated from Annapolis High School in 2015, where she participated in the Naval Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps with the intention of following her siblings into service. It is a family tradition, she told the Gazette when she was featured in the “Teen of the Week” column.

In the article, the then-17-year-old Geimer credited her mother for having succeeded in high school and never letting her give up on anything.

“She loved her kids. She loved her job,” said O’Brien, the mayor’s spokeswoman.

The family did not respond to interview requests but Winters’s friends flooded social media, pleading for her to reassure them she was alive.

Clarence Williams contributed to this report.

Peers describe Rob Hiaasen as ‘great colleague and a real craftsman’

Gerald Fischman known for dedication and quiet demeanor

John McNamara recalled as a mentor to young journalists

Rebecca Smith remembered as an upbeat colleague