Broadcaster, journalist, author and animal lover Connie Gotsch had a large family of friends in New Mexico and very few blood relatives. After her death on July 15 at age 64 from colon cancer, she was fondly remembered at a memorial service put together by the New Mexico Press Women organization and held, appropriately, at the New Mexico Broadcasters Association offices in Albuquerque.
As a group of two dozen people gathered, a slide show projected images of Connie on a screen while an iPhone in a speaker dock played the theme music for her radio show.
Connie was known by listeners throughout the Four Corners region on KSJE radio station in Farmington. She was the first program director when the station started at San Juan College in 1990 and she formed it into “Your Cultural Beacon.”
She hosted a classical music and local arts calendar of events program “Roving with the Arts” and “Write on Four Corners,” a show about authors, pens, poems and all things literary. She also helped encourage youngsters to learn the art of storytelling.
Connie was the author of three young adult novels about Belle the Dog and two adult fiction novels, A Mouth Full of Shell and Snap Me a Future. The Belle series consists of three award-winning books: Belle’s Star, Belle’s Trial, and the third, Belle’s Challenge. Connie was making editorial corrections to the manuscript for Belle’s Challenge up to the last day of her life. The book will be published posthumously.
She was also a long-time member of New Mexico Press Women and ran the organization’s annual communications contest from 2001 to 2010. She herself won a number of awards in the contest throughout the years. For her dedication and service to the organization, she was recognized with the 2007 Communicator of Achievement award, the highest honor bestowed by the National Federation of Press Women.
She was also remembered for her sense of humor, great interest in her friends and for being a lover and protector of animals. She was also an accomplished photographer, know for her black-and-white silver gelatin prints she developed in her own darkroom. She traveled extensively and took pictures wherever she went.
And she did this all while being legally blind. Connie could see with magnification, but she could not drive. She was a veteran of the public transportation system, utilizing the bus from Farmington to launch her travels.
Scott Michlin, General Manager of KSJE Radio, presented an audio collection of clips of Connie recorded during her programs. Her velvet voice and sly humor made the group smile. “Thank you for taking the time to remember her. She was a very special lady. A lot of our listeners miss her,” he said.
Her humor was evident up to the last day of her life. Longtime friend Margaret Cheasebro said she had been somewhat non-responsive on July 15 until another friend arrived. Connie perked up and said, “I have an announcement to make. I’m checking out.” This was about 12:30, and musicians were scheduled to come and play classical music in her room at 6:30 p.m. She stuck around until 7:30 to hear the music.
When the floor was opened to stories, friends contributed more details about Connie. She was fluent in German. She did Belle book signings at pet stores with her dog Kiri providing paw print “signatures.” She was an early adopter of social media. And she cared deeply about her friends, remembering names of spouses and children and being concerned if there was a problem. One NMPW member recounted Connie’s advice when being informed by email that she was a contest winner: “Enjoy the moment.”
KSJE Radio is coordinating a concert in Farmington on September 28 to remember Connie with music. A foundation in Connie’s name is being set up in Farmington to support arts organizations in San Juan County.
The service ended with a poem often attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson:
To laugh often and much;
To win the respect of intelligent people
and the affection of children;
To earn the appreciation of honest critics
and endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others;
To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child,
a garden patch or a redeemed social condition;
To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.
This is to have succeeded.
In Connie Gotsch’s words, enjoy the moment.
If you have memories or additional comments, please share!