Remembering Kathy Coulombe

The first time I met Kathy Coulombe she was hosting the news and I was butchering the liners.

It was late 1999 and I was on my first shift alone as a board op on CJAD and Kathy was the news host. Before the newscast, Kathy (a perfectionist when it came to sounding professional on the air) came into the studio and asked me if I knew which liners to play. Being a cocky 25 year old rookie, I assured her that she had nothing to worry about. She outlined the hand signals she would use to cue the next liner, I ignored her.

Well newstime came around and I hit the first liner (the news sounder), she started the newscast, then she signalled for the next liner…I drew a blank, I couldn’t remember if I had to play weather or sports…she signalled again, now dead air penetrated the studios, I grabbed the next cart (yes, we were still using manual carts back then) popped it into the machine and the wonderful sound of the sports sounder filled the studio. Kathy looked up from her desk,  and I tell you, if looks could kill, I would have been dead. She said over the sports sounder, ok first we’ll do sports then we’ll get to the weather. I smiled sheepishly at her, she glared at me.

Sports were done, off to the weather, I hit the weather sounder and Kathy said, And now CJAD weather, here’s weather specialist Joe Leone….Dead silence. She looked at me, I shrugged, she said into the intercom (call back system) “do you have Joe on the line?” I answered, “no”. She turned on the microphone and winged the newscast blaming the lack of Joe on a technical error.

The news blissfully ended and we were back into regular programming when the door to my studio burst open. In charged Kathy Coulombe. Her face was red and it was obvious to the casual observer that she was extremely angry. She started to scream at me. I got up and said softly, “if you want to talk like a human being, then we could continue. If you want to scream, go home and scream at your pets. If you can’t act like a human, get out of my studio.”

She looked at me increduously and told me that in all the years in the radio business no op has ever spoken to her like that. She promised to report me and have me fired. I shrugged my shoulders and went back to work. She left.

About 10 minutes later she came back into my studio carrying two cans of soda.  She handed me one and popped open the other for herself. She said “Ok, if we’re going to work together, we might as well be friends. I’m Kathy.” I introduced myself and it was then that she calmly explained to me that when I mess up her newscasts it makes her sound unprofessional. She then went over the hand signals and the cues for me, ensured I wrote them down and shook my hand welcoming me to CJAD.

After that first altercation, Kathy and I became close. We would hang out together at the station Christmas parties and would often talk for long periods of time after our shifts were done.

She was a true kindred spirit and after all is said and done, one of the most kind hearted people I have ever met.

When she and Astral (owner of CJAD) parted ways and then I was tossed from Astral, we lost touch. About a year ago, I ran into her in a downtown shopping mall. She told me she was working for Radio Canada and the CBC and was extremely happy. She gave me her number and told me to keep in touch. I never did. I had heard she was sick over the last couple of months. Last month a mutal friend told me she was terminal.

Yesterday Kathy died.  

Although it’s been a while since we spoke, her death has shaken me. She is the sixth radio broadcaster I had worked with at CJAD to pass away, but much like Jack Finnigan (whose anniversary of death was exactly one day after Kathy died), I considered her a personal friend.

I will miss you Kathy, your voice was unique, your professionalism enviable and your kindness a light upon mankind. May you rest in peace, my friend.

Howie

8 Responses to “Remembering Kathy Coulombe”

  1. Father John Walsh

    The death of Kathy Coulombe leaves a hole in the world of Media. I recall oen night when Kathy was doingthe news and I was interviewing Claude Ryan . Kathy delivered the news and he aksed if he could stay and say hello to Kathy. Kathy was shocked to think Mr. Ryan would want to meet her… his comment — I have always listened to your newscasts and wanted to meet you. I can still see the shock on Kathy’s face. On the death of Cardinal Martini I wrote an obituary in The Suburban and incldued Kathy’s visit to Milan where she planned to give the Cardinal a can of Maple Syrop. She wasn’t successful but he wrote me and said maybe some day in Canada he could meet Kathy. Hopefully they are meeting today. Dear Kathy your shangrila was Fogo Island, Newfoundland. where if they had a radio station you would have been there a long time ago. You dear sister on Fogo will miss your vistis. God bless and thank you Kathy for all the wonderful memories. My sincerest sympathy to her family, her radio colleagues and her many admirers. Father John (Walsh)

    Reply
  2. Simon Dingley

    I worked with Kathy at CJAD. She was a very friendly and lovely person with a distinctive voice. I left Montreal more than two decades ago, but I was fortunate to occasionally catch her on air when I was visiting Montreal. Montreal has lost a very talented radio newswoman.

    Simon Dingley
    CBC News
    Toronto

    Reply
  3. Dave Carsley

    Howie, this beautiful post does justice to the true professional that Kathy was. I had the privilege of working with her in the CJAD newsroom from 2002-04 and she made sure to make me feel welcome and taught me so much about the journalistic profession. I was devastated to hear about her passing. It is a tragedy that such a wonderful woman and professional was taken from us too soon.

    My sincere condolences to her family and friends.

    Reply
    • Howie Silbiger

      Dave, I remember you! We crossed paths a few times while you were there.

      After my first altercation with her, we became pretty good friends. When I started working in the newsroom (periodically) she would check my scripts and give me pointers on how to make them better. She would also check my audio, help me re-edit and make it good for her newscast.

      Always a lady, a truely good person and the ultimate professional. I wish I kept in touch with her after we were booted from the station, but alas, life has a way of seperating people.

      Reply
  4. Mike

    Living in Niagara for decades, I never heard her. But you have made her abilities come alive in your post.
    I grew up listening to CJAD, long before we had a TV. In fact I used to walk right into the studio and stand behind the glass watching the shows after my swimming lessons on Saturday mornings, when CJAD was located above the pool on Mountain Street, east side, halfway between Dorchester and St Catherine streets. Imagine a radio studio with such zero security today!
    Long gone from Montreal, I still follow what goes on in my home city, but generally from the shadows.
    This beautifully composed piece made me want to step out and shake your hand. It brought a tear to my eye.
    Thank you.

    Reply

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  1. Broadcaster Kathy Coulombe dies – Fagstein

    […] The Gazette is working on an obituary, and already one blog post has gone up from Howie Silbiger with an anecdote about how they met. […]