Shirley Baskin Familian, Co-Founder of KCET, Dies at 101

Shirley Baskin Familian, who co-founded Los Angeles public TV station KCET and served on its board for more than 60 years, has died. She was 101.

Baskin Familian, whose brother and late husband launched the Baskin-Robbins chain of ice cream stores in 1945, died Sunday, her family announced.

A lifelong creative artist, Baskin Familian moved through several media before landing on a mosaic style of art made from canceled postage stamps. Working well into her 90s, she had one-woman shows at the Craft and Folk Art Museum in Los Angeles, The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis and most recently the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington.

She completed her last art piece at age 100 and had plans to do more.

Shirley Robbins was born on Nov. 21, 1920, in Winnipeg, Canada. She and her family moved to Seattle and then to Tacoma, Washington, where she attended Annie Wright Seminary. At the University of Washington, she studied art and design and served as Associated Women Students president.

While in college, she met Chicago businessman Burton “Butch” Baskin. They married in 1942 after he completed a four-year stint in the U.S. Navy and moved to Southern California.

Her brother, Irv Robbins, had learned the dairy business from their father and opened an ice cream shop, Irvin’s Snowbird, in Glendale. He expanded to three stores and convinced his brother-in-law to open shops of his own. When they had six, they joined forces to create Baskin-Robbins Ice Cream in 1945.

She helped build the business, writing out the “Free Birthday Ice Cream Cone” cards a generation of Americans would come to prize.

She and Baskin helped launch KCET, which signed on as an affiliate of the National Educational Television network in September 1964 out of a building on Vine Street in Hollywood.

After Baskin died of a heart attack in 1967 at age 54, she married Aaron Goldfarb, but he died less than a year later. When she was 60, she wed Price Pfister CEO Isadore Familian. He died in 2002.

“Shirley had an incredible thirst and joy for life and always promoted peace, understanding and generosity of spirt between everyone she knew, and she lived those values herself,” her family noted.

Survivors include her children, Edie, Richard and Skip; grandchildren Anabella, David, Scott and Jon; and great-granddaughter Goldie.

Donations in her honor can be made to UCLA’s Department of Neurosurgery and the Barbra Streisand Women’s Heart Center at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

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