Harriett Woods: 1927 - 2007

Harriett Woods died last night at her home in University City. She was 79 and for the past year had battled leukemia.

I didn't know Woods all that well. Her kids were older than I was. (I mostly remember Pete, a football hero at U. City High, then at Mizzou -- and a fourth-round NFL draft pick.) But I was aware from an early age that Woods was a political force to be reckoned with. A pioneer as a woman in a man's world, for sure, but far more than that: a highly respected (not to mention greatly admired) politician in her own right.

I met Woods for lunch a year or so ago. She called about some story we'd done (I can't remember which) and was interested in talking about the paper and what had brought me back to St. Louis. I was flattered. She seemed in great health -- playing tennis regularly, as I recall -- and in terrific spirits. We talked some about journalism -- her profession before she first ran for office -- and about what she'd been up to. She had nothing but kind words and encouragement about RFT (yep, still the politician).

Afterward she walked me back to the office and we both promised we'd do it again soon. I meant it. I'm pretty sure she did too. But what with one thing and another, I never got around to calling her. And then she had a whole lot more to deal with than a lunch date with me.

My loss. And now a whole lot of other people's too.

-Tom Finkel

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