Retired Veteran KTVU News Reporter Betty Ann Bruno Dies at 91; Appeared as a Munchkin at Age 7 in Judy Garland’s 1939 Classic “The Wizard of Oz”

By: Kevin Wing, Chairperson, Media Museum of Northern California

Betty Ann Bruno, a well-known presence on Bay Area television as a longtime news and investigative reporter and show host for KTVU Channel 2 in Oakland from the 1970s through the 1990s, died July 30 in Sonoma County after suffering a medical emergency. She was 91. Bruno would have celebrated her 92nd birthday Oct. 1.

Her husband and partner of 46 years, Craig Scheiner, a retired longtime KTVU news photographer, said Bruno suffered a heart attack at a local hospital after rushing her there after she complained of having a severe headache following a hula dance lesson she was teaching.

“She loved hula dancing,” Scheiner said, “The last thing she did was dance with her students. Danced in her bare feet like hula dancers do. Couldn’t have had a better way to go, doing what she loved.”

Bruno worked for the Oakland station from 1970 until her retirement in 1992, first working in the station’s community affairs department, which she became acquainted with during her tenure as president of the League of Women Voters of Oakland. Bruno helped to produce election broadcasts and public service announcements before joining the department’s staff. She would eventually host Channel 2’s public affairs show. After a stint with that, she was persuaded to move to the newsroom, where she became an accomplished, three-time Emmy Award-winning news reporter. Besides Emmys, Bruno received numerous accolades and honors, including a presidential certificate from President George H.W. Bush.

In October 1991, Bruno and Scheiner lost their home in the Oakland hills to the devastating Oakland-Berkeley Hills firestorm, which destroyed more than 3,000 single-family homes, condominiums and apartments. The fire gutted more than 1,500 acres. When it was finally over, thousands of people lost their homes, and 25 people lost their lives.

Once the firestorm was over, Bruno and Scheiner allowed a KTVU cameraperson to walk with them as they surveyed what was left of their home. It had been reduced to ashes.

Although Bruno retired from KTVU in 1992, she remained with the station until 1994, working part-time.

“Betty Ann was such a good reporter,” said Bill Moore, a retired KTVU photographer who worked at the station for three decades, from the 1960s to the ’90s. “She was a great person to work with. I have the highest respect for her, and I will miss her.”

“Betty Ann’s amazing talent was that she could get anyone to talk to her, anyone,” said Gary Kauf, director of television broadcast operations and film at Ohlone College in Fremont and a former longtime KTVU reporter and producer. “She was non-threatening, and gentle with everyone.”

Born in Hawaii and raised in southern California, Bruno graduated from Stanford University, and also did graduate work at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

At age 7, she was chosen to play one of the Munchkins in the 1939 film classic, “The Wizard of Oz”, starring Judy Garland.

After retirement, Bruno and Scheiner moved to Sonoma. In 2009, Bruno founded Hula Mai, which she called her “retirement career” — teaching hula and Hawaiian culture. Hula Mai performed in the Sonoma Plaza every spring and at luaus and other celebrations throughout the Sonoma Valley.

Officials with the Sonoma Cultural and Fine Arts Commission named Bruno the city’s Treasure Artist in 2020 and 2021.

We will miss you, Betty Ann. May you rest in peace.

Our sincerest condolences are with Craig and his family during this difficult time, and with everyone who knew Betty Ann as a trusted friend, colleague, teacher and mentor.