I was saddened today by the news of the passing of one of my former co-workers. Dell Warner was the senior reporter at WDIV when I worked there. Through life, there are people who just leave a mark on you because of who they are.
Dell died Wednesday after a battle with cancer. If there was a fighter out there would could have fought off the disease, it was Dell.
It’s hard to say something about a woman who’s life speaks for itself. She sang on Broadway with Ethel Merman. She would talk about how she knew Tony Bennett.
In 1990, WDIV, Local 4 hired her for “Coming of Age,” a regular feature on senior issues. This is how I first came in contact with Dell. I was hired at WDIV to be the noon newscast producer. She was one of the first people I met. She made an effort to make sure I knew who she was and what she did at the station.
Dell treated everyone at the station like one of her own children. She was quick to praise you for something but if you did something wrong, you could rest assured she was going to be at your desk telling you about it. The Detroit Free Press echoed my sentiments in their article about her life saying “At Channel 4, Ms. Warner sought out younger and inexperienced colleagues. She was generous with both criticism and encouragement.”
She may not have always had the best timing when she came to talk to you but no matter how busy you were, you always felt like you needed to stop and talk with her. In a Detroit News article, she told Neil Rubin, “I don’t mind being 84,” she says. “What I don’t like is being ignored.” There was no ignoring Dell. You couldn’t. Rubin painted the perfect picture of Dell in his article. “The woman who once invited cameras to document her face-lift has put herself together: a reddish fall filling out her hairdo, pale green pantsuit, clunky amber necklace with matching earrings. That was Dell.
She was passionate about her reports. She’d tell you how she’d gotten a call from a woman who’d seen her story and went to the doctor only to be treated for the disease that was the subject of her report. She’s post phone numbers around the newsroom so that when people would call, and they did, you would have the information for them.
I remember a couple of times when her stories didn’t air, because of breaking news, she’d be upset but understanding. I’d tell her, “Dell, we’ll run the story tomorrow.” She’d say “You always take great care of me.” I know I did but it was only returning the caring she paid me.
She gave me two glass bowls over three years I knew her and they are still sitting in my living room. So in a way, a woman I knew for only three years will stay with me and I will always treasure those gifts from her.
If you knew Dell, you’re happier for having known her. For people who weren’t as lucky, I wish you could have seen the energy, happiness, caring, spunk, fiestiness and talent she had.
She’ll be missed by many people but remembered by them all.
[thanks to the Detroit News, Free Press & WDIV for some of the information contained in this entry. I hope I’ve helped remember her in the best way possible.]