San Diego lost one of its most well-known and important figures on Saturday, when journalist Gloria Penner succumbed to the cancer she’d been battling for more than a year. She’d been a fixture at KPBS since 1969 and a constant voice in the conversation about local and state politics and public affairs. Not enough can be said about her role in forging a trail for women in broadcasting.
I was honored to have been allowed to pay my respects at a funeral service on Sunday and say goodbye amid her family, friends and colleagues. News of her death had hit me hard. I realized, perhaps more clearly than I had before, how much Gloria meant to me and this newspaper.
It was Pam Hardy, then a producer for KPBS, who sought to add me as a second-string panelist on the Editors Roundtable radio show in 2003. But I believe that would never have happened without Gloria’s approval as the show’s host and driving force. I think she and I developed a special chemistry over the years; I was not as refined as the usual panelists, and she took my often-unconventional contributions with grace and good humor. Gloria and the show legitimized CityBeat in the minds of many thousands of KPBS listeners when we were fledgling and anxious to be noticed.
In the months after her diagnosis, I’d be relieved every time I entered the studio to find her bright, smiling face; though she began to host the show less frequently, I marveled at her energy as she fought her illness. I regret that I didn’t know that the show we did on July 6, 2012, would be the last we’d do together. Her final broadcast was on July 20.
Gloria had a reputation as a tough customer in the workplace, but she was nothing but kind to me. She treated me with respect even when I’d been in San Diego less than a year and knew absolutely nothing relative to her vast knowledge of local affairs. I have tremendous admiration for her accomplishments and am in awe of the high esteem in which she’s been held by influential San Diegans across the political spectrum for so many years.
More than anything, I’ll miss our fun little Friday chats about news and politics. Rest in peace, Gloria.