By ERIN ROLL
roll@montclairlocal.news

One of the five victims of the Capital Gazette shooting on Thursday, June 28, has ties to Montclair as a former resident, writer, member of the school community and congregant of a local house of worship.

Wendi Winters, 65, lived on Grove Street in Montclair in the 1990s with her family. She was involved with the Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Montclair (UUCM), the Bradford PTA and the Montclair PTA Council. She also wrote for The Montclair Times.

Winters was a fashion consultant and publicist based in New York for part of her career, before relocating to Maryland and eventually joining the staff of Capital Gazette.

At Capital Gazette, Winters was the special publications editor. She specialized in covering community news, including "Home of the Week" and "Teen of the Week". Some of her final pieces for Capital included a profile of 15 high school seniors who would be attending the U.S. Naval Academy. She was known to be an extraordinary storyteller, and this talent was reflected in the end-of-the-year letters that Winters sent out every year at Christmas.

Montclair resident Jane Tabachnick said that her family knew the Winters’ family from their time in Montclair. Tabachnick received Winters’ annual Christmas cards and letters, and also received photos of the Winters family’s travels around the world.

“It was like a little mini-book,” Tabachnick remembered of the letters.

Others recall Winters’ letters that came with a package of baked goods attached, according to a tribute piece for Winters posted on the Capital Gazette’s website.

Another former Montclair neighbor recalled Winters' commitment to community. “No one that met Wendi will ever forget her energy, passion, style, commitment to social justice and helping those without privilege, and her love for her family and friends. What a loss. What a waste,” said Paul Shatz, who lived near Winters on Grove Street.

Shoshanah Wolfson, a longtime acquaintance of Winters and her family, said that it was believed that Winters had written for the Montclair Times between 1993 and 1998.

According to a tribute piece on the Capital Gazette website, Winters identified herself as “a proud Navy mom, a church youth adviser, a Red Cross volunteer and a Girl Scout leader who could ‘make a mean s’more.”

The UUCM Facebook page on Friday was filling with comments from the congregation. “We are saddened to share the news that former UUCM member Wendi Winters has died. Wendi was a member of UUCM in the 1990s, known and loved by many.”

"I am heartsick over the loss of Wendi Winters in the Annapolis shooting," said Patricia Dow, who knew Winters from UUCM. "She was a member of my congregation, dear friend of my dad's, had kids who played on the soccer team with my daughter... Wendi was such a memorable person. If you met her, you remembered her because of her big, off-beat, whacky, caring way. If you wanted to get something done, Wendi was your person. I cannot believe that she was a victim of yet another senseless tragedy."

The other four victims of Thursday’s shooting are assistant news editor Rob Hiaasen, sales assistant Rebecca Smith, sports writer and editor John McNamara and editorial page editor Gerald Fischman.

The alleged shooter Jarrod Ramos, 39, reportedly had a long-term grudge against the paper due to its coverage of a criminal harassment suit against him. Authorities say that Ramos shot through the glass door at the Capital Gazette’s offices before opening fire on the employees in the office. Ramos is facing five charges of first-degree murder and is being held without bail as of Friday.

The Capital Gazette staff continued reporting even after being evacuated from the office and as police were responding. Photos on Twitter showed the staff working out of the back of a pickup truck. One reporter, Chase Cook, posted on Twitter, “I can tell you this: We are putting out a damn paper tomorrow.”

On Friday, it was announced that the owners of the Capital Gazette had established a fundraiser for the families, victims and survivors of the shooting.

On Sunday, the Capital Gazette reported that a memorial service was to be held for Winters this week at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Annapolis. Winters' family has also requested that donations be made in her name to the Red Cross, the ACLU, Planned Parenthood and the Girl Scouts, the paper reported.