Obituary: Karen Rothrock / Program distributor for WQED-TV

Sept. 7, 1944 - Sept. 15, 2013

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Karen Rothrock, who for years sold and distributed WQED-TV programming and later started her own distribution company, died Sept. 15 at a hospital in McKean County. She was 69.

While she maintained a home in Penn Hills, she spent most of her time in the McKean County unincorporated village of Ludlow in the Allegheny National Forest, where her parents had bought a second home when she was a child.

Ms. Rothrock traveled overseas regularly in the 1970s and 1980s to help sell original WQED programming, including such high-end series as "Infinite Voyage" and "WonderWorks," at a time when the PBS station had much more clout here and abroad than it does now.

"She was very good at putting people together," said Peter Argentine, a Mt. Lebanon filmmaker and former WQED staffer who worked with her.

"She developed her own contacts and her own style and worked on getting co-production money," recalled Tom Skinner, former executive vice president at WQED now living in Michigan. "She was well thought of."

After she left the station in the late 1980s, she and a partner set up Tapestry, a New York-based distribution company that continued to work with PBS as a contractor.

In addition to her skills at finding distributors for documentaries and other film projects, Ms. Rothrock enjoyed photography, writing, studying history and especially reading murder mysteries. Her home was filled with hundreds of them.

"She was even writing one," said Judith Howells, executor of her estate.

Ms. Rothrock was born an only child in 1944 in Sheraden; her family later moved to Green Tree.

After graduating from Anderson University in Indiana, a Christian college where she studied history and political science, she went to work as an aide for Republican U.S. Rep. James Fulton in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

After he died in 1971, she joined WQED. She traveled widely while at the station and later at Tapestry, making trips to such international events as the Cannes Film Festival. Closer to home, she often drove to Washington, D.C., where she marketed documentaries to such outlets as the History Channel.

Ms. Rothrock lived on Jefferson Road in Penn Hills but after her retirement from Tapestry in 2004 lived mostly in Ludlow. She had long been active in the community there and helped to revitalize Wildcat Park in the Allegheny National Forest, where she often led a women's Bible study group. She was also past secretary of the Ludlow Community Association.

Ms. Rothrock died at Kane Community Hospital after suffering an embolism the day before.

A memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. Oct. 13 at the DeForest Pavilion in Wildcat Park.

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