BHCHP recently lost a close friend: former Channel 5 journalist and Chronicle co-host Mary Richardson. For two decades, she was a devoted supporter of our work — getting to know us and our patients by doing what any good reporter does: rolling up her sleeves and hitting the streets. Whether accompanying our street team on rounds or visiting one of our clinics, she loved talking to our patients and hearing their stories. Although she was a local celebrity, she was as modest and down-to-earth as they come. Our president, Jim O’Connell, MD, tells the story of the time she visited McInnis House to watch him at work. He proudly introduced her to a long-time patient, saying that surely he had seen her on Channel 5 over the years. The patient, unimpressed, responded: “I only watch public television, channels 2 and 44.“ Mary was tickled.
People talked to Mary because she listened — with compassion, with curiosity, and without judgment. Over the years, she produced several stories about BHCHP and was also a wonderful emcee for our galas. And occasionally her two roles would merge.
At one BHCHP event, baseball legend and speaker Dennis Eckersley shared the story for the first time of his brother Wally, who suffered from substance use disorder and homelessness. Mary was touched, and eventually did a moving story for Chronicle about Wally, interviewing him from the prison where he was incarcerated. She was always attracted to the untold stories.
We honored Mary with our inaugural Tim Russert Award in 2010, and how fitting the award was: both were extraordinary journalists who cared deeply about the underdog. In her thank you remarks, Mary talked about two important things she had learned from people who had experienced homelessness. The first thing was to not judge people until you heard their story – and everyone has a story, she said. The other was to never give up on another human being. “You never know at what point someone will be able to really listen, and to make the changes they need to make to fully live their lives. And you never know how long it might take,” she shared. And later, in typical Mary fashion, she turned the attention away from herself and the award and shone a light on BHCHP. In her words: “How can I ever express to you my gratitude for the tremendous gift you gave me? It was the honor of a lifetime! To receive the first Tim Russert award and a standing ovation in the midst of all of you, whom I admire so much, was a truly humbling experience — one that I will have to spend the rest of my life living up to. I am deeply grateful for your friendship.”
And we are deeply grateful for yours, Mary. We miss you.