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KPCW's founder, Blaire Feulner, dies at age 70

Blaire Fuelner in the earlier days of KPCW.

Feulner leaves a legacy of local journalism at KPCW

Blaire Feulner, who founded Park City’s community radio station, KPCW, and was its general manager and news anchor for over 25 years, has died. She was 70 years old.

Feulner suffered a massive stroke at her home in Park City last Thursday. She passed away Sunday night, October 16th, at the University of Utah Medical Center, after her family decided to take her off life support.

Feulner was born January 31st, 1952, in the Salt Lake Valley. She graduated from Olympus High School and attended the University of Utah.

She began a career in radio at a young age, working at stations around the country as a DJ. Feulner also wrote for newspapers in Park City and Heber.

In 1978, Feulner and four collaborators asked the community to support the idea of a home-grown public radio station.

On July 2nd, 1980, KPCW signed on the air, operating with a minimal staff and an army of volunteer DJs spinning music from the top floor of the Memorial Building on Main Street. A few years later, the station moved its offices to the Marsac Building.

Susan Finegan became the station’s development director in 1982, and married Feulner in 1984. Susan and Blaire developed a fundraising strategy recognized in a 1995 study, which found that KPCW (per capita) had more listeners and raised more money than any other public radio station in the country. The study also found that its emphasis on local news and information made it essential listening for 78% of Park City residents.

Feulner retired from KPCW in 2008, but not before overseeing the construction of a new home for the station on Swede Alley.

Leslie Thatcher succeeded Feulner as news anchor. She’s currently traveling, but wrote to the station that the city, herself especially included, owe Feulner an extraordinary debt. Thatcher said Feulner loved reporting and delivering the news and was superb at both.

Thatcher added, “She was a visionary and an entrepreneur. Fueled by coffee and a rabbit-like metabolism, Blaire worked for years with little to no pay, to found the public radio station many today take for granted, “KPCW: the station that Park City built.’”

If you made your mark in recent city history, you often remember your first interview with Blaire. Former Park City Police Chief Frank Bell recalled that in the early eighties, as he was working in Jackson Hole, he was called by Feulner without notice, and asked about his new position as top cop in Park City.

At the time, Bell said, he had not been formally offered the job by then-Park City Manager Arlene Loble, and he had not accepted it. There were rumors in City Hall, he said, that KPCW had bugged the building. The truth, he said, was that Blaire always had an ear to the ground and knew what was going on before anyone else.

Myles Rademan recalled that in 1986, newly arrived as city planning director, Loble sent him down to the bottom floor of the Marsac Building for an interview in KPCW’s “rather makeshift studio.”

A 35-year-friendship with Feulner began, Rademan said, and he added, “I never tired of jousting with her over the numerous interviews both on and off the record. In so many ways she understood the potential and laid the foundation for what Park City has become.”

KPCW created opportunities for kids. It carried The Jeremy Ranch Elementary News, and once, recalled former 5th-grade teacher Betsy Bacon, the kids broke the news ahead of everyone.

On a Friday show, the youngsters announced that the Wolf Mountain Resort (now the Canyons) was shutting down. That immediately brought a concerned phone call from Feulner about broadcasting an item that wasn’t true.

Bacon recalled, “On Monday morning Wolf Mountain announced it WAS closing permanently and as it turned out, my ten-year-old kids scooped Blaire. On that issue, she was quite proud of us.”

In 2015, Feulner came out as transgender. Allison Child, a local businesswoman and KPCW Board member, recalled that Blaire was brave in making that announcement at a Rotary meeting, brave in creating a radio station, and brave in covering the news.

She added, “Blaire made me brave with her kindness and encouragement during my first KPCW interviews as a green planning staff member fresh out of college."

On KPCW’s 40th anniversary in 2020, Feulner was asked about the station’s legacy. She said it was a big part of the “new” Park City.

“KPCW came along at just the right time for the town to be inventing itself. It was a crashed old mining camp and all of a sudden it was reinventing itself into a world class ski area,” said Feulner. “And the radio station became a part of that. We used to do lots and lots of issues surveys and town hall meetings. One of my favorites was do we want to be another Aspen and we invited Bill Stirling, Mayor of Aspen, for a town meeting and we had five hundred people show up for that forum. So, I think the radio station was huge part of the creation of the new Park City. That’s what I think is really special about what the station did.”

KPCW General Manager Renai Miller and Board Chairman Roger Goldman said they’re grateful for the foundation set down by Blaire and Susan Feulner.

“KPCW has grown from a radio station staffed by just a few people to a digital information delivery platform that serves listeners and readers on all seven continents.”

Miller added, “We hope to continue Blaire’s legacy on by holding the powerful accountable, and providing quality local news and great information to the Park City community.”

Known for getting all the facts right, as well as his distinctive sign-off, Rick covered Summit County meetings and issues for 35 years on KPCW. He now heads the Friday Film Review team.