Kathi challenged us to be better

It is often said you can judge a person's character by how they treat children and younger adults. By that measure, Kathi Goertzen was the best of them. I grew up watching Kathi on KOMO-TV, so it was among the highest honors in my life to not only meet her but to work as an intern, then an assignment editor then writer and finally producer on her shows.

Just meeting Kathi for the first time taught me a valuable lesson about assumptions. I'd assumed from watching that shiny, beautiful, smart woman on TV all those years that she'd have little to no interest in the 20-year-old intern I was back in 1996. Instead she welcomed me warmly, offered advice and tempered invaluable critiques of my work with kindness and generosity.

But Kathi wasn't just nice for the sake of being nice, she wanted you to learn, wanted you to grow and be challenged and be better. She set the best of examples in that department. Kathi was no talking head. She was so smart and such an amazing writer and reporter. She set the bar high for anchors in general but women in the business in particular.

I remember one time she was struggling with a script I'd written and instead of just saying, "rewrite it," she told me, "Jacci, just write it as if you were telling your best friend something you'd just heard." I hear her saying that in my head nearly every day, particularly as I'm struggling to convey information in a way that people can understand. Kathi was a master at that, the best person to help teach me that skill.

I was also continuously amazed by how Kathi was able to remember the most minute details, personal things you'd tell her in passing that she would ask you about years later. I always thought about all the people she'd met and had in her life and I wondered why she would bother remembering those types of things about me. I realize now it was simply because she had a great curiosity and love for people in general. She wanted to know who you were, not to gain any type of advantage but because it meant something to her to make that connection and keep it going.

Whenever people would ask me, somewhat wryly, what's Kathi Goertzen really like? I'd always tell them, she is as warm and wonderful as the person you see on TV, the real deal in a world where very little seems real.

It would be impossible not to be touched by Kathi's health struggles, her deep love for her family and for her profession. I feel blessed just to have known her, just to have sat in the same newsroom as her all those years. As someone who makes a living with words, I'm truly at a loss for them right now.

Kathi Goertzen, thank you so much for the example you set and the impact you've had on my career and countless others. It was an honor knowing you.