Long-time TV reporter and anchor Kathi Goertzen died Monday after a 14-year battle with benign brain tumors, KOMO TV reported. She was 54.
"Our co-worker, our angel, our precious friend, Kathi Goertzen, died today, surrounded by her loving family. The long fight against the tumors that have ravaged her brain is over. She is at peace now, comfortable and surrounded by all that is good," KOMO said on a special web page in memory of Goertzen.
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Goertzen was a familiar face to TV news viewers in Western Washington. The Seattle native was on the air more than 30 years.
She went to work for KOMO TV right after graduating from Washington State University in 1980. Within two years she was anchoring the weekend news, and two years after that she was anchoring weeknights.
Goertzen put her celebrity to work for good causes, but in 1998 she was diagnosed with a non-cancerous tumor that damaged the nerves controlling her speech and swallowing.
She had surgery and returned to work within a month, but the tumor re-grew in 2005. A series of surgeries left her unable to anchor.
In 2011, she was voted "Woman of the Year" in the 2011 Best of Western Washington and spoke with KING 5's Meeghan Black.
"It's been a rough road, as you know. I was diagnosed with this atypical meningioma more than 10 years ago and I've had several surgeries and radiation an tried lots of different drugs and I've lose cranial nerve that controls my face and my hearing and my voice and my balance,” she said.
When she couldn't work on camera, Goertzen continued to work off-camera, behind the scenes at KOMO. She was philosophical about her disease.
"There's only one way to take life now and that's one day at a time, and it's funny when you stop planning and planning and try to decided what you're going to do next, how each day becomes more beautiful,” she said.
Goertzen was hospitalized last week and on Friday, her colleagues used Facebook and Twitter to ask for prayers. Thousands of people wrote to express their support.
Goertzen died Monday, surrounded by family.
KOMO Vice President of News, Holly Gauntt, said the support from everyone in the community meant the world to Goertzen.
“Please know that your love enveloped her. It strengthened and encouraged her. You helped Kathi fight a valiant fight, please know that it mattered deeply to her that you were there," she said.
Gov. Chris Gregoire issued a statement via Twitter, saying "Kathi Goertzen was among the finest and most courageous people. She is in my heart and will not be forgotten by her countless friends."
Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn issued a statement, saying "As the face of KOMO news for 20 years, Kathi Goertzen was a successful and accomplished journalist who approached her work with integrity, compassion, and a dedication to the public good. Her strength and resiliency during her illness made her an inspiration to many in our community. She will be long remembered in Seattle for her accomplishments at the anchor desk, as well as her grace in the face of adversity. Kathi was beloved by the people of Seattle, and we will miss her."
Goertzen is survived by her husband, Rick Jewett, her two daughters, Alexa and Andrea, and her parents.
KOMO News invited people to leave messages or flowers at a memorial outside the doors of Fisher Plaza at 140 4th Ave. N. in Seattle.