The galaxy lost a stellar jewel last night with the passing of WCVB-TV’s bright and talented Mary Richardson. Sadly, her star had gradually lost its sparkle over the seven years in which her dark disease – Alzheimer’s – increasingly sucked her into the void and stole her essence. Her loss – to her devoted husband and family, to her friends, to me – is incalculable.
Over a nearly 40-year friendship, we shared so many laughs, tears, and dreams. We were certain our friendship would last into our dotage. We fantasized sitting in rocking chairs on the front porch of some retirement home, sipping margaritas (she would have figured out how to smuggle them in) and wise-cracking about the young studs walking by. The laughs would never stop. Except that they did.
We worked together for years on Five on Five, Channel Five’s Sunday morning political discussion show. We reviewed it after each taping, laughing, formulating plans. In the eighties, we also worked on candidate debates (a U.S. Senate debate between Governor Bill Weld and Senator John Kerry in the Parker House ballroom sticks in my mind). How we relished the strategizing, the probing, the candidate responses and audience reactions.
But mostly we savored the friendship, the family gatherings, the home visits and dinners out, the movies (anything by the Coen brothers was a must-see immediately upon release, thanks to Mary’s son Chris, who introduced us to them through one of their earliest films, Blood Simple.)
Mary, with her sunshine voice, taught me what it means to be gracious, even when encountered by a viewer in assault mode. I absorbed in my every pore her enthusiasm for life, which audiences saw in her underwater dance with a porpoise or delight at discovering a new restaurant. She especially savored doing Chronicle programs about unsolved mysteries, as she gleefully shared little-known facts, the gorier the better. Audiences were spared the lesson she learned about going up in an old-fashioned biplane after eating creamed broccoli soup, which she indecorously lost – to the pilot’s chagrin. Her empathy for other people’s travails was endless and authentic. Her generosity was boundless; her humor, enlivening.
In her last years, at Avita, the memory care home in Needham, MA, when she couldn’t communicate and was buried deep inside herself, there were still precious moments when the Mary we all knew and loved shone through – in a reach for a hug, a spontaneous giggle, a twinkle in her eye. Thank you, dear Mary, for your life-enhancing friendship and loyalty. Thank you – for being you. The New Year will not be the same without you.