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Walking All Over Cancer

June 4, 2013 1 comment
The one and only Brenda Box

The one and only Brenda Box

I am so psyched and happy to say that I’ve signed up to participate in a 5K Walk, June 15th, benefiting Purple Stride, an organization dedicated to fighting pancreatic cancer, which claimed a much beloved colleague and friend earlier this year.

Brenda Box was the afternoon editor with NPR’s Newscast unit.  A kinder, warmer, funnier, sharper, smarter journalist-human will never be found.   Here is a tribute to Brenda from a few months back.   Accomplishing this 5K for her and in her memory is going to be very special to me.   As Brenda’s health deteriorated last year, I developed a few complications of my own.  It bonded us a bit more than most, I think.  The very day I had an endoscopy this year that would find the cancer in my tummy that I’ve had to deal with, was also the day of Brenda’s memorial service which I proudly, if woozily, attended (they put you out for an endoscopy).

I walk about a mile a day now.  Basically, to complete a 5K you take about 4,800 to 5,000 steps.  I can easily handle about 2,400 currently.  But I’ve got two weeks to build up to it.  I can do this.  It’s one hour of walking, for Christ’s sake.

One of the reasons for 5K walks like this, of course, is to raise money for the cause.  Here’s a link if you would like to sponsor my walk.  The group I’m with at Purple Stride is called the Boxtops.  I would be very proud to raise money for any organization dedicated to the fight against any cancer.

I’m doing this for Brenda because I will always love her.  And I’m doing it for me so I can prove to myself that I can take 5,000 steps six weeks after major cancer surgery.  In some silly way, I feel like I’m taking the torch from Brenda, and having been given the gift of a curable cancer, that I am literally finishing the race for her.  That will be her gentle push at my back.  And her prankster foot I dodge in her ill-fated attempt to trip me.  I’m on to you, Brenda.

 

 

 

 

 

Remembering Brenda Box

Brenda

A truly loved and appreciated colleague passed away this morning. Brenda was an editor with NPR’s Newscast unit. There wasn’t a word spoken by an anchor or an NPR correspondent that didn’t get her keen eye, and eventually her approval. I was her boss. This is the note I sent to NPR staff around the world today. The outpouring of affection has been enormous. She will live in our hearts forever.

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We are deeply saddened to announce that our beloved and respected colleague, Newscast Editor, Brenda Box, has passed away after a courageous four years dealing with pancreatic cancer. She was 58. Anyone who ever dealt with Brenda knows what a special and unique person she was; equal parts cynical and sensitive, outspoken and hilarious, brilliant and fun and warm and self-deprecating.

Correspondent, Carrie Kahn, who largely dealt with Brenda on the phone, but grew close to her anyway, put it this way in a recent note to Newscast staff: “Every time I called newscast and she answered the phone, no matter how stressed or busy she was she always had a few moments for a quick chat, great banter and that memorable laugh. Not that filing spots is not fun enough, but Brenda made it something special, personal and among friends.”

Newscast’s Korva Coleman has a further explanation of Brenda’s role in the unit: “Although you never heard her name on an NPR broadcast, she shaped what you heard. While you never heard her speak to you on the radio, she guided your understanding of events. Brenda Box was the editor every journalist dreams of, one who elicits the best from reporters and quietly removes the errors…Brenda often concluded her conversations with her trademark, “Cool beans.” That was the indication that her exacting eye had reviewed the reporter’s work and approved.”

There is no justice served remembering Brenda only in the context of her health issues in recent years. But it must be said that in this particular respect, she taught us all the true meaning of gentle grace under great adversity.

Brenda graduated with a journalism degree from Colorado State University, worked as Capitol Hill correspondent for USA Today Broadcasting/Gannett News Service, as an anchor for the UPI and NBC/Mutual radio networks, and as a reporter for West Virginia Public Radio and WTOP Radio before coming to NPR ten years ago. Outside of broadcasting she worked for the Wilderness Society, the National Wildlife Federation and served as Press Secretary for the District of Columbia’s City Administrator.

She was a long-time member of the National Association of Black Journalists, winning an NABJ Excellence award for a series on Black Pioneers. The Gannett News Service honored her work for radio coverage of the 20th anniversary of the Civil Rights March on Washington.

Brenda is survived by her husband, Steve Johnson, her daughters, Chantel and Chanel and her son, Anthony.

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By way of remembrance, the family asks that donations in Brenda’s name, be made to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, Pancan.org.