Stella Foster always signed off on her column with “yeah, I said it” and at her BIG retirement party August 28th, she did indeed say it to NBC president and general manager, Larry Wert, when he asked her point blank if she was really retiring. Her hesitation and half-hearted “yeah” gave everyone in the room some hope for the future with this much beloved columnist.
More than 700 fans, friends and supporters turned out at the Cultural Center to see/hear Stella Foster tell it like it is for the last time. Or was it? I personally don’t see our dynamic Stella sitting in a rocking chair from now into perpetuity but, as we all know, she does need some rest after 43 years of deadlines! I know she’s already being courted by a variety of media types to bring her honesty and inclusiveness to their outlets so I think it’s only a matter of time before she returns in some way, shape or form back to the public arena. But, on this night, it was all about paying homage to someone who has given us all so much.
NBC’s Art Norman served as emcee for a program that included tributes from Governor Pat Quinn, Warner Saunders, Melody Spann Cooper, Dominic DiFrisco, Dori Wilson, Tom Dreesen, Larry Wert, Jamie Foster Brown, Reverend Jesse Jackson, Harry Ellis, Rob Johnson, Merri Dee, State Representative Mary Flowers, Richard Dent, Shell Reyes, John Rogers, Allen Rafalson, moi 🙂 and many more. Governor Quinn called her “a woman for all seasons” and said, “they (the people) need your energy, your enthusiasm and your zest for life. We’ve been blessed by Stella covering the news with her human touch.” Warner Saunders recounted a comment from her boss Kup who said, “I couldn’t do my job without her.” She had only been working for him six weeks at the time. Saunders went on to say, “She was not hateful, not nasty and whenever she shot an arrow of criticism, she always dipped it in honey first. You’re truly a Chicago treasure.” NBC President Larry Wert said, “No one’s been more fair or genuine than Stella.” Melody Spann Cooper posed this question, “Have you ever seen anybody with a gossip column who still keeps the best secrets in the world?” Melody then sang the theme from “The Golden Girls” with Theresa Griffen. The lyrics began with “thank you for being my friend.” Awwwww……The program continued with comments from Channel 2 News’ Rob Johnson who said, “Thanks to Stella for making this a better town to live in.” Reverend Jesse Jackson offered a prayer reflecting, “We can’t take this moment for granted. Thank you Lord for the gift you’ve given us in Stella Foster and thanks for the gifts you gave to her.” Harry Ellis said, “There will never be another you!” Dominic DiFrisco, the well known leader of the Italian American community who awarded Stella with the Dante Award, had this to say, “Stella, the name means “star” in Italian. She’s a star in our lives and she’s a champion of truth. We are infinitely privileged to walk beside you.” President of the Chicago Journalist’s Association, Allen Rafelson, who recently awarded Stella with a Lifetime Achievement Award, said Stella’s appearance for the gala broke attendance records. Stella’s sister, Jamie Foster Brown said, “She’s retiring from the Sun-Times but she can’t retire from who she is. Stella IS Chicago!”
The Stellabration committee was chaired by Stella’s longtime friend, Ken Bedford and co-chaired by pr maven extraordinaire, Dionne Williams. Members included John Bellamy, Michelle Boone, Gloria Brown, Les Coney, Carolyn Curry, Alex Dana, Dominic DiFrisco, Mary Frances Fagan, Craig Gilmore, Hermene Hartman, Cheryl Pearson-McNeil, Kim Nash, Lisa Newman, Art Norman, Bill Pry, Tim & Everett Rand, Shell Reyes, Donna Lear Robinson, John Rogers, Lorri Stacker, Robert Storman, Commissioner Debra Sims, Abe Thompson, Dori Wilson and moi.
Event sponsors and donors included Tom Kehoe Designs, BBJ Linens, Kathleen Henson, Deja Views Photography, Remy Martin, Wirtz Beverage Illinois, Blanc de Blanc, Piper Sonoma, Bon Manger Catering, City of Chicago, Loretto Hospital, United Service Company, The Nielsen Company, Harry Caray’s, Gibson’s Steakhouse, Mastro’s Steakhouse, Rosebud, Wildfire Chicago, Tavern on Rush, Eli’s Cheesecake (who created a magnificent cake with Stella’s pic on top!), Petterino’s, La Scarola, and RL Restaurant. As you can see, she is much loved!
The night also included rousing numbers by The Together Band & Rich Aldana, DJ Sam Chatman and vocalist Antone.
It was a night packed with love for this Chicago treasure and I’m hoping, like all of her other “Stellaholic” fans, that we haven’t seen the last of her……Yeah, I said it! (Photos by Mila Samokhina and Steve Starr)
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