I’ve always heard that by the time we grow old and we’re down to just a couple of breaths, that we become experts on how to live a great life. Through trial and error, we have found out what works and what doesn’t work; the things we never should have tried to get away with and the long list of things that we wish we had only tried.
Saturday morning, we got an email from a friend of a friend with the bad news. Channel 4’s Kathi Goertzen was in her final hours and probably wouldn’t make it through the day. For the out-of-state readers, Kathi has sent the last 14 years of her life battling brain tumors. She had three surgeries–each time, the tumor they cut out kept growing back.
But each time, Kathi stared it in the face and kept living.
So many people have one major setback in their life and just give up. They sit around and blame something for all their troubles, for all their problems and become amazingly self-defeating. Kathi probably had more reason to give up than not, but after the first surgery she came back and was soon anchoring again on KOMO-TV with her partner, Dan Lewis. When it grew back and another surgery was necessary, it meant more away time….but after a while, look who was back in her news chair.
Sadly, the third time around had taken its toll on her appearance. It was hard for her to talk. Her face drooped. In an industry that ships off Today Show Co-Hosts because they appear in their 50s, Kathi focused on what she could do with what time she had left.
And that’s when she showed us all how to live. No matter what problems we faced day after day, there is no way any of them compared to what she went through. This asinine tumor was going to rob her of watching her own kids fall in love, get married, maybe hand her a grandchild. That was not to be.
But Kathi did go in front of cameras to show us that, in spite of what she was going through, she was still the Kathi we had come to know after 32 years on the air at KOMO television. She was an excellent journalist, but also a believable presence in a world of fake smiles and staring at teleprompters.
It’s customary for people to come out of the woodwork and talk about a person who has passed like they the best of friends. Kathi and I were professional acquaintances. Over the years, our paths crossed often, with her TV appearances and my radio job.
The first time wet met face to face was on a road trip to southern California to star in a regional version of “The Family Feud.” The trip is full of great stories that I’ll pass along in person, but there were two things I learned about Kathi: she was actually a nice person and she was very close to her sister. While in LA, we had a taping of “Feud” on Sunday, but Saturday night was all ours. Kathi’s sister apparently lived down in LA and I remember them both heading out on the town with their cowboy boots on to have fun the So Cal way.
As the KOMO news folks reached out to have people get to know them, Kathi was willing to play along when we asked her to do something silly. For example, we had only been on the air 16 years but I had this idea that, to play it safe, we should do our 25th Anniversary Show now, instead of waiting, just in case.
Playing along, she recorded this promo, with her sly sense of humor and perfect delivery.
Kathi was also called into action every year around Apple Cup time, as the feisty WSU Cougar would gladly take on Husky Steve Pool in the Murdock, Hunter & Alice Battle of the Sexes. Here’s a promo they recorded for one of the matches. Oh, and listen for a bonus message for Kathi from WSU Coach Mike Price.
Last but not least, here’s one of the Battles that took place, so we can all enjoy her playfulness and super-Coug spirit just one more time.
Perhaps it’s because she was made aware her time was limited that Kathi brought her life challenge to the forefront so we could all learn something. Never take any day for granted, cherish your family like you may not get to grow old with them and take joy in everything you do. Kathi didn’t choose giving up, she chose life and to fight for every second she could get.
That was proven in her final days, when it appears on Saturday that she only had hours…but didn’t pass until 12:45pm on Monday afternoon. No one was going to cut her weekend short.
As you the hear the outpouring of salutes to this amazing woman, know this: it’s tremendously deserved and it was an honor to have occupied this little corner of the world while she was here.
Thanks for the powerful lessons in how to live. You mastered it.