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Actress Ann Bruno has died

Betty Ann Bruno, who starred as a Munchkin in The Wizard of Oz, has died at the age of 91. The Emmy-winning TV reporter had been dancing at Sonoma Women’s Club on Sunday when she suffered a “sudden, splitting headache”. Her husband Craig Scheiner then rushed her to the hospital.

At the hospital, Betty had “a heart attack and collapsed on the floor” before reaching the front desk. Her husband said: “She had no major health issues. Her heart just wore out. She died of old age.”

Craig explained how his wife had been very active in the weeks before her death. He said she had been busy teaching hula classes and meeting up with her friends.

Betty, who was believed to be one of the last surviving Munchkins, was recently honoured at the Oz Stravaganza in Chittenango, New York. The event is the longest-running celebration of The Wizard of Oz.

Speaking to The Press Democrat, Hula Mai dancer Becky Zyskowski said: “It was really great to be able to experience the Oz Stravaganza with her and see how everyone there loved her just as much as we do.”

Betty had an uncredited role in John Ford’s 1937 film The Hurricane before finding fame in the iconic film The Wizard of Oz. She then transitioned into journalism, working as a television reporter for KTVU in the Bay Area.

She joined the station in 1971 when she was hired to write for the 10 O’Clock News programme. The Hawaiian-born star won three Emmy Awards during the two decades she spent working for the station. The awards were for breaking news, news-feature series and investigative series.

She was born Betty Ann Ka’ihilani on October 1, 1931, in Wahiawa, Hawaii, before growing up in Hollywood. She graduated from Stanford University in 1953 and went on to work as a secretary for the CIA.

Betty met her first husband, Russell Bruno, at the spy agency. The couple moved to Berkeley, California, in 1966 where they raised their three sons and Betty started her career in broadcast journalism.

She met her second husband, Craig Scheiner, at KTVU. He worked as a cameraman, producer and editor for the news station.

Craig told The Press Democrat that his heart had told him Betty was “the one” when they first met. She often joked that she had married him because he helped her get through her first day as a reporter.

Craig added: “We enjoyed each other’s company more than anything else. We always seemed skilled in complimentary areas. I loved her with all my heart. Nobody can replace her. She was my honey bunch.”

Betty retired from journalism in 1992 and moved to Sonoma, California. There, she opened Hula Mai in 2009 and taught locals how to hula dance, with a hope of inspiring a love for Hawaiian culture.

Hula Mai will be performing at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds at Shade Park Stage 2 on Saturday in tribute to Betty. A memorial service will be held, but details are yet to be announced.

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