Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Remembering Helen Thomas August 4, 1920 - July 20, 2013

At Helen Thomas' memorial service in Troy, Michigan on August 15 of this year, she was referred to as a trailblazer.  It is said that she paved the way for women in journalism.

She was born in Winchester, Kentucky and was the seventh child of nine to immigrants from Tripoli (Lebanon) and came to America (via Ellis Island).  She grew up in Detroit, Michigan where her dad ran a grocery store and was raised as a Christian in the Antiochian Orthodox Church.

She took an interest in journalism during her high school years and after graduation, she was accepted at Wayne State University where she would eventually earn her bachelor's degree n English.

Helen at a Press conference
She moved to Washington D.C. following college and took her first journalism job as a copygirl for the former Washington Daily News.  She and many of her colleagues were fired as the result of a strike.  She then went to work for the United Press (1943) where she covered societal issues, celebrity and women's news.  She began writing a column called "Names in the News" and her job was to interview Washington movers and shakers.  She was assigned to cover the U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Department of Health and the doings of Capitol Hill.  She became active in Washington having served as president of the Women's National Press Club.
Helen authored over 40 books

Her reputation really became noticeable when she began covering President John F. Kennedy's election and would soon became the White House UPI correspondent in 1961.  She received nicknames from her position and was referred to as "The Sitting Buddha" and "First Lady of the Press."She was known for ending all of the press
conferences with "Thank you, Mr. President."

Thomas was a "hard nosed reporter."  She fought for woman's rights and commanded respect by all those she dealt with.

Over her career, she covered ten U.S. Presidents from JFK to Obama.  She even dated JFK briefly (before his marriage).  She became more and more outspoken over time and wasn't afraid to question policies from war to various debated issues facing our country.  In recent years, she challenged leaders about the Iraq War and foreign policy.  Because of her attacking nature, she was forced to retire in 2010 from comments recorded by a rabbi that were sensitive toward Israelis.  Upon her retirement, she said "I paid the price for that, but it was worth it, to speak the truth.

She was named one of the World Almanacs 25 Most Influential Women in America and authored over forty books.
Helen Thomas funeral

Helen Thomas Memorial Program
Helen Thomas died on July 20, 2013 at her home in Washington D.C. at the age of 92.  Following her death, President Obama said of her "a true pioneer" and that "she never failed to keep presidents--myself included--on their toes."

A memorial service honoring Thomas was held at the St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church (the same church she attended as a child) in Troy, Michigan (memorial program pictured) on Thursday, August 15, 2013 that included hundreds of family members, friends, and journalists.  During the service, a vase containing Thomas' ashes rested on a table along with a portrait of her.

Rev. Joseph Antypas, pastor of the church, said of Helen "she was a giant lady who left an impact on so many people.  We are proud of our own Helen Thomas---an American icon."

Following the services, the cremated remains of Helen Thomas were laid to rest in a
Detroit cemetery (name unknown).

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