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Pauline Mercer, 89; worked on 'Masterpiece Theatre'

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Caitlin Castello
Globe Correspondent / November 30, 2007

She once played golf with Francis Ouimet, the winner of the 1913 US Open, at The Country Club in Brookline. During her youth, she and her father camped with Leon Leonwood Bean, founder of L.L. Bean. When the Cold War started in the late 1960s, she decided to learn Russian to help translate, if needed. And when many women only dreamed of a career, she pursued one at WGBH-TV in Boston.

Pauline (Tobey) Mercer was "a Renaissance woman," said her son Walter of Newton. "Her life was one of trying new things and learning."

Mrs. Mercer, of Weston, died Nov. 11 at her home from a degenerative neurological disorder. She was 89.

She started work at WGBH in 1955, during the television station's infancy, as a volunteer, and eventually became a full-time employee.

Mrs. Mercer was a staff producer for the "Elliot Norton Reviews," a drama review talk show. She also worked as a unit manager for the popular "Masterpiece Theatre" series and "Mystery!" She worked at WGBH until her retirement in 1993.

"WGBH was a big part of Pauline's life, and she was a huge part of ours," said Henry Becton Jr., vice chairman of WGBH's board of trustees. "She was smart, energetic, and with every feisty fiber of her being an advocate for WGBH and the power of public broadcasting."

On the WGBH Alumni website, a colleague remembers Mrs. Mercer as a staple at the station.

"Pauline was one of those smart, competent, positive people who made WGBH tick, was one of its unapologetic advocates, and clearly and energetically believed in what it was doing," wrote the colleague, John Kerr. "She lent her skills and competence to us, and her presence within the station's walls made things better."

Mrs. Mercer was born in Boston in 1918 to Dr. George L. and Pauline (Flanders) Tobey and graduated from the Winsor School in 1937. She earned a degree in French from Vassar College in 1942, graduating Phi Beta Kappa.

Beginning in her teens, she developed into a champion golfer and played the remainder of her life.

"She did well to raise four boys. . . . I'm sure we were a handful," said her son George of Newton. "She was able to maintain discipline in the direst of circumstances."

Mrs. Mercer married Douglas Mercer of Brookline in 1942. Mercer, a senior partner at the law firm of Ropes & Gray, died in 1997.

In addition to her two sons, Mrs. Mercer leaves two other sons, C. Douglas of New York and Sam of Venice, Calif.; eight grandchildren; and a great-grandchild.

A service will be held at 11:30 a.m. tomorrow in St. Andrew's Church in Wellesley.

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