Wendi Winters, killed in Maryland shooting, was devoted to Navy life and community journalism
By ARELIS R. HERNÁNDEZ | The Washington Post | Published: June 29, 2018
One of the journalists killed in the Maryland newspaper shooting was the daughter of a Naval Academy graduate and the mother of three children currently serving in the U.S. Navy.
Wendi Winters, 65, an editor and community reporter for the Capital Gazette, 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. She wrote weekly columns, hundreds of feature articles and oversaw editing of the local's special editions.
The mother of four dedicated more than two decades of her career to covering the community where she raised her four children and saw some of them become Navy 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 was never too far removed from Navy life. She married a military officer and son of another naval commander in 1987. 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. Her 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.
As a journalist, Winters made the mundane marvelous, 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 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.
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. 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.
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.
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 Universalist Unitarian Church.
Winters was born in San Diego to the late U.S. Navy Cmdr. Leigh Cosart Winters and Dorothy Breuninger Winters, a Capitol Hill secretary. 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.
When Winters' youngest daughter was featured in the "Teen of the Week" column, the then 17-year-old credited her mother for having succeeded in high school and never letting her give up on anything.
The family did not respond to interview requests but Winters' friends flooded social media, pleading for her to reassure them she was alive.