2 Years Later, We Remain Devastated By The Loss of A TV News Icon
As we are acknowledging the 80th anniversary of Pearl Harbor Day, there is also another major loss that we experienced in our broadcast medium. It was on a Sunday morning on December 7th, 2019, I was on the air at another radio station and found out on the social media pages that news spread fast on the abrupt and sudden passing of a longtime fixture on WFSB-TV. Channel 3's Denise D'Ascenzo left us unexpectedly as Connecticut residents were in a state of shock (and still are to this day). This one hit close to home as I was proud to call Denise a dear friend in this business.
Our friends in North Western Connecticut can totally relate to this story as Denise and her near and dear colleague, Dennis House delivered the days top stories every evening at 5 and 6 pm with esteemed professionalism as they both gave their viewers a sense of comfort and included their audience as an important part of their daily regimen. Sweet Denise was only 61 years old when she passed away from a massive heart attack at her Branford, Connecticut home. This news still is surreal for all who knew her and was well-respected statewide as she also served as the station's health reporter. Her on-air work ethic was impeccable. Denise's memory ALWAYS remains eternal and everlasting.
Berkshire county residents also knew of Denise's talents as cable outlets received her news broadcasts when she anchored alongside Don Lark on channel 3 until must-carry edicts came into play in the mid 1990's. WFSB was not part of the exclusive TV market that served the western Massachusetts area. WRGB-TV (CBS 6) from neighboring Albany, New York became the sole CBS affiliate in our vicinity, even though the station was still available for viewing.
I first met Denise back in 1995 when I was living in Lakeville, Connecticut. The Litchfield county hamlet is located 20 miles south of Great Barrington, but at that time my services were at a neighboring station in Sharon where I played country and western music 6 days a week. I was acquainted with former channel 10 sports anchor, Harvey Smilovitz during my days in Albany as he took a similar position at channel 3 and he invited me to the station and introduced me to this beloved, iconic TV personality after watching her anchoring on the set LIVE during a 11 o'clock news broadcast at their Constitution Plaza studios in Connecticut's capital city.
Denise was gracious and appreciative after giving her nothing but the best compliments on her presentation. What you saw on TV was what you got in person. She was "The Real Deal" and another friendship was established in high fashion. I made a pair of return appearances to channel 3 a few years later in 1998 and 2000 when Denise co-anchored with Al Terzi and her professionalism resonated very well in my eyes and through the small screen.
It was my long time friend, former Channel 9 Syracuse anchor Rod Wood who instituted the "Sweet Denise" moniker as she got her start in The Salt City after graduating from SU in the early 80s. Every time I went for my annual pilgrimage to The New York State Fair, her former colleagues wanted me to send regards and without fail, I would call out east to Hartford as I brought those well wishes from Rod, Tim Fox and Mike Price, just to name a few. In Denise's words: "Ron, you made my night with this phone call and it is very much appreciated". Her kindness remains entrenched in my mind forever.
Earlier this year, (January 30th to be exact) I featured Denise's co-anchor, Dennis House on my "Let's Talk" segment and ironically, we chatted on the day of her birthday making memories of our beloved friend who was also known as "his channel 3 TV wife" and we will continue that tradition to acknowledge her special day which is also The Feast Day of The 3 Hierarchs in the Eastern Orthodox calendar.
Denise was a special person who reiterated we should all express kindness to one another and you can express your support for her worthy cause by logging on and donating to The Denise D'Ascenzo Foundation's web site. Dennis House also serves as an Honorary Chairman to keep her daily mission alive and well during these trying times as these contributions go toward advancement in medicinal and health related matters.
To sum it up in Denise's own words: "Be Open, Be Brave, Be Kind" AMEN!
(Photo image of Denise D'Ascenzo courtesy of her Facebook page which was also featured in previous articles)
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