My Friend, Yvonne

I remember the first time I saw her in our newsroom. 1984. 20 years later, she was still as beautiful in this photo from our trip to visit Liz Miles and her husband, David, at their home in Scottsdale, Arizona.

I remember watching her walk through the Pittsburgh airport, dragging her Brighton carry-on, of which she was so proud, because she had bought it with Apple dollars earned from her columns at the Post-Gazette. I was admiring of the suitcase, yes, but also, of the fact that she was now more than a “TV reporter.” She was in print — in a daily newspaper. It so impressed me.

Out there, in Arizona, the three of us remembered our days together at WTAE-TV.Where broadcasting had taken us, and where it had not.We vowed to do a vacation together again, but when we tried, one of us was always too busy—until Yvonne was too sick. But when Liz walked into her bedroom Monday night, when her friends all gathered to celebrate this remarkable woman, Yvonne said “picture,” and I ran into the downstairs den to grab the framed photo of our memories.

When you got to know Yvonne, what struck you most was her light — a pure light, yet so very human. Yvonne was wonderfully complex, whose stunning looks distracted many from what was a steel-trap mind. And when you combined that brain with an unrelenting work ethic, you had a formidable journalist. Somehow, just calling Yvonne a reporter isn’t enough. And she truly was an advocate for the people. An award-winning advocate,  whose stories were infused with her own special humanity–the quality that made her so beloved by devoted viewers and her many friends.

And one of the things those friends loved about her was her infectious sense of humor–light-hearted, sometimes edgy, and often raucous. Yvonne was both fun, and  funny.

And humble. Her humility extended not just to her broadcast accomplishments, but her celebrated looks. The night of her death, as her family and friends toasted her life, and her brave battle against a horribly aggressive cancer, her husband, Jim (shown here in a Christmas photo several years ago)

allowed that she never really got that people found her so gorgeous. That people found her so talented and intelligent. But if you asked Yvonne what defined her most, she would say her fierce love of her family.

How many dressing room talks did she and I have about her daughthers, Adona and Nikki, and then her first grandchild, Adona’s daughter, Lindsey. She was so proud of  her daughters and of that beautiful baby girl, who first made her a grandmother.  Now there are five!  And as she talked about her impending death, she was comforted, somewhat, by the fact that her children and

grandchildren were happy,  settled, and surrounding her as she fought to survive, and maintain a sense of what was normal.

I spent Thankgiving night at her home, with all of them, and we danced to the theme songs from television shows of the 80’s. Her dogs, Pumpkin and Hope underfoot, and one of her four cats appearing now and then.  She smiled and laughed, but there was a quiet, almost imperceptible resignation about her. If you hadn’t  known her, you would never  have noticed .

It was true of her last days on television.  It is why, I suppose, that so many people expressed surprise that she had died. “I just saw her on TV and she looked fine,” they would say. One friend, DVE’s Jim Krenn,  commented that her beauty was so enduring,  not even the ravages of cancer could diminish it.

Why did she work until the end? Not because she needed to be on TV. What she needed was to make lives better. It is why one of her final contributions was to mount an amazing charitible drive, one last time, for the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.

And her lasting contribution to her friends is to have taught us both how to live, and how to die. If we can not incorporate some of her penchant for looking for the best in everyone, and maintaining grace and humor when most would have withered, then what’s the point?

Thank  you Yvonne, for your lessons, and your life.

(a note–the last two photos were sent to me by a friend of Yvonne’s. I regret that they could not be enlarged, because of the size sent.  I wanted to post this as soon as possible, and I am trying to get a larger format with which to replace them)


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