Former WAGA personality Virginia Gunn (‘PM Magazine’) dies

Febuary 4, 2002: WOODSTOCK.GA.: Author Bill Diehl (CQ), has a new book out. He's a best selling author of Sharkey's Machine and Primal Fear, both of which have been made into movies. Photographed here with his wife Virginia and one of their many pets, 'Arthur'.(JOEY IVANSCO/staff photo).

Febuary 4, 2002: WOODSTOCK.GA.: Author Bill Diehl is a best selling author of Sharkey’s Machine and Primal Fear, both of which have been made into movies. Photographed here with his wife Virginia and one of their many pets Arthur. (JOEY IVANSCO/staff photo).

By RODNEY HO/ rho@ajc.com, originally filed Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Virginia Gunn, a popular WAGA-TV host in the 1970s and early 1980s, passed away Monday, according to Fox 5.

“Virgina was a spitfire who turned heads and raised eyebrows on and off television,” said Paul Yates, a former WAGA-TV reporter who worked with her and retired in 2013. “She was all personality, all the time. The camera loved her and so did Atlanta.”

She was a co-host of daily evening features program “PM Magazine” for several years on WAGA-TV when it was a CBS affiliate and what was termed a “weekend weather girl” back in the days when women were called “weather girls” and didn’t require meteorology degrees.

Here's a pic from her WAGA-TV days as a weekend weather girl from the late 1970's. From left to right is sports anchor Bill Hartman, news anchors Sharon Summers and Ken Roberts, and weather girl Virginia Gunn.

Here’s a pic from her WAGA-TV days as a weekend weather girl from the late 1970’s. From left to right is sports anchor Bill Hartman, news anchors Sharon Summers and Ken Roberts, and weather girl Virginia Gunn.

Ken Cook, who worked for WAGA-TV for 35 years as a meteorologist until 2014, said he’ll forever remember her as “young, bubbly, energetic and full of life… This is a big loss for her family, her many fans and the state of Georgia.”

In 1982, she moved to St. Simons Island with William Diehl, a best-selling author known for such thrillers as “Sharky’s Machine” and “Primal Fear,” and married him soon after. In 1992, she became a Glynn County commissioner representing St. Simons Island and was known as a crusader of environmental causes. But she stirred controversy by switching from Republican to Democrat and lost her re-election bid in 1996.

In 2001, the couple moved to a small farm in Woodstock, according to an AJC story about Diehl in 2002 written by Don O’Briant. In the story:

Gunn, who gave up her TV career to be caretaker of a small menagerie (10 dogs, a parrot, several turtles and two alpacas) and one sometimes distracted writer, says she doesn’t miss being on camera.

“I don’t think there’s a great demand for 52-year-old women on television these days, ” Gunn says as she shoos a couple of dachshunds out of the kitchen. “Besides, we both are homebodies.”

Diehl passed in 2006 and Gunn moved back to St. Simons Island and continued her environmental battles, according to the Florida Times-Union.

Fox 5 did not say how Gunn passed but Nancy Thomason, owner of an island bookstore, told the Times-Union that “Gunn had felt unwell for awhile and about a month ago had gotten a bad diagnosis. She was given the option of treatment but chose hospice instead.”

This six-minute retrospective when she left “PM Magazine” highlighted some of the goofy things she did including donning a bear costume, getting her face “plastered” on the air and rappelling down a cliff in combat boots. And as her co-host noted, she did all this “without messing up her hair!”  She is seen opening a nightclub, driving a truck, talking to a dog and interviewing George Burns.

Here’s how WAGA covered her wedding to Diehl in 1983:

And here she is doing a classic stunt for “PM Magazine”:

(1996) Virginia Gunn, former Atlanta TV personality who moved to St. Simons Island and then got herself elected a Glynn Co Commissioner, switched parties at the last minute and is now running for re-election as a Democrat in a heavily-Republican district. She says local party heirarchy shunned her. (PHOTOS SHOT 5/14/96) (AJC Photo/Wendell Smith) 5/96

(1996) Virginia Gunn, former Atlanta TV personality who moved to St. Simons Island and then got herself elected a Glynn Co Commissioner, switched parties at the last minute and is now running for re-election as a Democrat in a heavily-Republican district. She says local party heirarchy shunned her. (PHOTOS SHOT 5/14/96) (AJC Photo/Wendell Smith) 5/96

 

Fox 5 dug up this shot of Virginia Gunn when she was on air. CREDIT: WAGA-TV

Fox 5 dug up this shot of Virginia Gunn when she was on air. CREDIT: WAGA-TV

 

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