Stories about Helen Thomas abound at Club's memorial tribute to her Oct. 5
October 6, 2013 | By Connie Lawn | ConnieLawn@aol.com]
Several hundred people who jammed the National Press Club Saturday, Oct. 5, to pay tribute to the late, groundbreaking journalist Helen Thomas, were treated to humorous, poignant stories about her from a host of her prominent friends – among them ABC News reporter Sam Donaldson, PBS “News Hour” anchor Judy Woodfuff, USA Today Washington Bureau Chief Susan Page, actress Diane Ladd and present “Dear Abby” columnist Jeanne Phillips.
The legendary Thomas, a longtime National Press Club member who was born Aug. 4, 1920, died July 20. Many of her friends and relatives in attendance agreed the tribute was one of the most moving events in the long history of the Club.
The tribute, professionally produced by Thomas's niece Suzanne Geha and other of her many relatives, contained its share of Helen-style scoops. Geha reported, for example, that Thomas once said she had a date with John F. Kennedy. Thomas's assessment: “He was too fresh.”
But Kennedy remained the first president she covered, and, according to Geha, her favorite.
Woodruff, in her tribute, noted that one reaction to Thomas’s death was, “Poor St. Peter.”
Ladd announced that she soon would make a movie about Thomas’s reporting on Martha Mitchell, the outspoken wife of President Nixon’s attorney general John Mitchell, and the Watergate abuses..
Speakers acknowledged that Thomas was opinionated. But they said those strong, and sometimes hurtful opinions "should not obscure the many important breakthroughs in her life." They said she "loved peace, was passionate, compassionate, and a loyal friend.”
The tribute ended with members of The Gridiron Club and the National Press Club audience linking arms and singing "Auld Lang Syne."