When Jackie Robinson and I meet someone new at a function or in the studio she often refers to herself as "Matty's first TV wife." She flashes that endless bright smile and talks about our earliest days of anchoring the news together on Channel 3 in the early 1990's. Each time she says it I feel privileged to share that relationship with her. It's a relationship that surely will last even as our days anchoring together come to a close.
That partnership is built on years of experiencing the major events and stories of our community together. It's built on the bond that comes from enduring the ups and downs of the television business together. It's built on caring and listening to the struggles and successes of each others families and personal lives.
Jackie's face lights up when talking about her children. She is so proud of both H.R., the quiet engineer in Boston, and Jocelyn, the social butterfly working in finance in New York. In the newsroom, Jackie loves to share pictures of the latest night out or special event. When there's drama at Jackie's desk it's never from her son. It's Jocelyn calling her mother, seeking her counsel. Jackie's depth of empathy is extraordinary. Her desire to help her children unmatched. Her husband Henry is lucky to have her. And she is fortunate to have him.
Jackie learned the importance of commitment to family from her own parents, Hubert and Earsie Robinson. They remained a fixture in Jackie's adult life until her mother passed away four years ago. It took all of Jackie's strength of character to rally from the depths of her grief over her loss. Eventually that familiar brilliant smile returned. It had to come back. Her parents were so proud of her, not only for her success as a television pioneer in Syracuse, but for the woman she had become.
Several times a year, car repairs or maintenance lead to Jackie and me car pooling on the ride home. When I drive the ride is 15 minutes. When she crawls along it takes 30. In either case the time of conversation far exceeds the number of miles. Once she starts talking she cannot be stopped. It is my duty to listen as her "first TV husband."
Local celebrity in our community is measured by recognition by shoppers in aisle after aisle in Wegmans. Jackie Robinson hits a home run by that measure. I like to tease her about her fame, but I also learned to respect the attention that comes with it. In my early years at Channel 3 I would share a State Fair autograph booth with Jackie, hoping that someone would want my autograph, but knowing they were really there to see her. Yet, even with her stratospheric recognition she approached our newscasts like a star ballroom dancer. She allowed her co-anchor to lead, knowing all eyes were really on the brighter star.
Soon Jackie will say her final trademark "Good night, Central New York", but even then I will proudly continue to wear the label of Jackie Robinson's "first TV husband".
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