SEATTLE — Longtime Seattle television news anchor Kathi Goertzen died Monday following a lengthy, public battle with brain tumors. She was 54.
KOMO-TV, the ABC affiliate where she worked for three decades, announced her death on its website Monday. News director Holly Gauntt wrote, “Her long fight against the tumors that have ravaged her brain is over. She is at peace now, comfortable and surrounded by all that is good.”
Goertzen was first diagnosed with a benign brain tumor about 12 years ago. Despite multiple surgeries and radiation treatments, the tumor continued to grow back, intertwining with nerves and paralyzing her face.
She documented her illness and treatments in appearances on KOMO, even after she left her anchor chair, and she launched a foundation dedicated to brain tumor research.
The Seattle native and graduate of Queen Anne High School anchored KOMO newscasts for nearly 30 years.
Her co-anchor, Dan Lewis, with whom she was on one of the longest-running anchor teams west of the Mississippi, called Goertzen, “a true professional and a role model for me, everyone else in the newsroom and the entire Western Washington community.”
Longtime KOMO weatherman Steve Pool told The Seattle Times Goertzen was “a complete person.”
“She has this aura, this ethos that permeates the newsroom,” he said. “There is an elegant class about Kathi that goes along with her undeniable ability to do what she does on a daily basis.”
In Marysville, Bonnie Krueger Rasmussen wept Monday when she heard about Goertzen’s passing. In 1999, after being diagnosed with a benign brain tumor similar to the type the KOMO-TV anchorwoman battled, the Marysville woman reached out to Goertzen.
“I remember her being on TV and talking about it openly,” the 54-year-old Rasmussen said. The day she learned she had a tumor, Rasmussen said she left a message with Goertzen at KOMO. “I told her I just got diagnosed and I feel like I’m on an island all by myself. She called me that night. We talked for 25 minutes,” Rasmussen said.
In 2005, Rasmussen was invited to be in the audience of KOMO’s “Northwest Afternoon” when Goertzen appeared on the show to talk about her condition. Then Bonnie Krueger, she shared her story with Herald readers in Kristi O’Harran’s column in 2005.
Rasmussen, who works in the health room at Marysville-Pilchuck High School, had surgery to remove her brain tumor in 1999. She recently suffered a recurrence, and said she is scheduled for another surgery at the end of this month. On Monday, she remembered Goertzen as an inspiration. Through the years, she said, Goertzen sent her many emails and encouraging words.
“It was just her gift,” said Rasmussen, whose Facebook page has a picture of wristband that says “Pray 4 Kathi.”
“She’s so beloved, and she’s been so special to me,” Rasmussen said. “It’s just so sad we lost her.”
Goertzen started at KOMO in 1980, soon after graduating from Washington State University. Helping raise money for her alma mater was one of the ways she supported her community.
For the past 24 years, she spoke at annual luncheons for the YWCA of Seattle, King and Snohomish counties, and she led a $43 million capital campaign as board president for the organization.
Gov. Chris Gregoire praised Goertzen as a journalist and a person.
“She was a terrific journalist because she cared deeply about her work and the people it touched,” the governor said in a statement. “As her fight against brain tumors waged on, we saw yet another side of Kathi. She was courageous, fearless and inspirational.”