Kathi was the heart and soul of our news team

It was the summer of 1987 and little did I know when I came to KOMO Television that I would be meeting one of the most important people in my life - a woman I would admire on the news set and off. A true professional and a role model for me - everyone else in the newsroom - and the entire Western Washington community.

I think one of the many reasons we clicked is that we both took our jobs very seriously - and we both enjoyed having a good time - living our lives to the fullest. We worked hard, and every once in a while we'd party a little bit too.

We shared a lot of happy moments over the years. I remember when Kathi's first daughter Alexa was born. From the news set I interviewed Kathi at the hospital. She had little Alexa in her arms. I was so happy for Kathi I think I was beaming as much as Alexa's dad.

We appeared at community events together, covered many elections together, earthquakes, snow storms, fireworks shows on the 4th of July, the Kingdome implosion on a chilly Sunday morning in March of 2000 and, sadly, we covered way too many tragedies.

There were many times over the years - faced with difficult news in our community - that Kathi and I cried together. The loss of four Seattle firefighters when the Pang Warehouse burned and the loss of four Lakewood police officers who were gunned down by an assassin are just a couple examples.

We were stunned and saddened way too many times over the years. We found that, even as reporters, you can't cover the news without feeling the same emotions as everyone else in the community.

When Kathi and I teamed up to report on breaking news it always seemed like we knew what each other was thinking. When I stopped talking Kathi was always ready to add perspective or move on with a new thought or new information.

There was never any competition between us - other than me knowing I better be on my game - because I knew Kathi always would be.

There were so many sad stories. We always looked forward to the lighter news, but every once in a while we might have had a little too much fun. On more than one occasion we said something that tickled our funny bones and, on the air, we were laughing so hard we couldn't read the rest of the story.

I realized early on that Kathi loved her Cougars and loved Washington State University. She sat on the University Foundation Board of Trustees. Every year during Apple Cup week she and Steve Pool, a University of Washington grad, would try to one up each other on the news. Kathi hated it if she felt like she was outdone.

She was also passionate about her family - her husband Rick and daughters Alexa and Andrea, her mom and dad, and her three sisters. I always marveled at what a wonderful family Kathi had.

Kathi was deeply involved in our community.

She was a board member for the Seattle/King County YWCA and helped raise millions of dollars. She was a strong supporter of Angeline's Center for Women.

Year after year she opened her heart to the Children's Miracle Network Telethon.

Each New Year as Kathi and I teamed up on live television for New Year's Eve at the Needle, we'd talk about how long we had worked together, how much we enjoyed each other's company, and how much we still had to look forward to in our careers and our lives.

But just as we saw in the news we reported every day, you have to be prepared for the unexpected.

And sure enough, the unexpected happened.

Kathi had been complaining to me for months that she was losing her hearing in her right ear. I joked that since she sat on my left at the anchor desk she wouldn't have to listen to some of the silly things I told her. Unfortunately, she was having trouble hearing because her first tumor was growing at the base of her brain, not far from that ear. That discovery led to Kathi's first tumor surgery in December 1998.

Everyone at KOMO - and it seemed like everyone in Western Washington - was pulling for her and praying for her.

She quickly bounced back and returned to the anchor desk. Many of us thought, "whew," thank God she put that behind her.

But a couple years later the tumor began to grow again and that would be the "m-o" for the next decade. Doctors would remove as much of the tumor as they could and over time it would grow again.

The tumor was attached to the nerve that controlled Kathi's facial expressions and swallowing. Given Kathi's remarkable television career the medical team didn't want to damage that nerve. But as time went on the surgeons realized this had become more about saving Kathi's life, and not just her career. The surgery got more aggressive and the nerve did get damaged. Kathi's voice was weak and the right side of her face was impacted too.

But Kathi never gave up, never stopped fighting, and never lost her faith.

Kathi fought hard and I was often struck by the reality that she was more worried about how the bad medical news was impacting the people closest to her than she was about herself.

And the tumors just kept coming back.

In February Kathi told me she dreaded the thought of having another operation but said she knew she was in good hands and she just knew a cure would be found for her.

She told me, "If I can just hang on long enough, I'll be okay."

It was a remarkable road Kathi traveled in TV news.

She started at KOMO in 1980. In 1983 she joined the weekday anchor desk, first with Jim Harriott, then we teamed up.

As the years went on we got word that we had become the longest running anchor team west of the Mississippi. We were a bit surprised by that - but proud too - because "we were a team!"

In 2005 Kathi celebrated her 25th anniversary at KOMO. She told me she felt blessed to have worked here for 25 years.

I told her, "Let's plan on 25 more."

We won't get those 25 more.

But Kathi Goertzen will always be at the heart and soul of our news team. What she brought to KOMO - her spirit, her drive to deliver solid journalism, her love of community, and her love of life - will be felt here at Fisher Plaza and throughout Western Washington for a long time to come.

Kathi had a trademark sign off at the end of our newscasts. Not something she said, but something she did. It was a kindly wave good-bye.

Good-bye, Kathi, we sure do love you.