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Zanos handled illness with grace

| Saturday, Jan. 9, 2010

Yvonne Zanos faced ovarian cancer with the same courage, determination and sense of humor that television viewers came to expect during her long career as a consumer advocate.

Zanos, the award-winning consumer editor at KDKA-Channel 2, died Friday in her Upper St. Clair home. She turned 60 this week.

Earlier, she was a consumer reporter at WTAE-Channel 4.

"She carried on through that most difficult journey with the most incredible grace of any human being I've ever known," said her KDKA co-worker, longtime friend and cancer survivor Mary Robb Jackson.

"She never complained. I know it was unbelievably difficult for her, but she continued to work. She wanted to make sure she was doing the best job possible for all those people. She wanted to be there for them. I think that's what kept her going."

Christopher Pike, KDKA vice president and general manager, agreed.

"I can't imagine anyone handling this type of situation more gracefully than she did," he said. "She's been an inspiration to all of us."

Jackson said Zanos often underwent exhausting chemotherapy treatments before going to work.

"Early on, when she lost her hair and made the transition to a wig, she made a lot of wig jokes," Pike said.

Zanos' last day of work was Dec. 14; her last report aired Dec. 28, Assistant News Director Anne Linaberger said.

"I think some people will be surprised about her passing because she really was able to turn on the old Yvonne charm and energy when the camera went on and was able to hide her pain and sickness from the viewers," said Linaberger.

Zanos underwent surgery after being diagnosed with cancer in November 2007. The first person, outside her family, to visit her in the hospital was WTAE news anchor Mike Clark.

"When I went to the hospital, she gave me that beautiful smile and said, 'God has been very, very good to me. Mother Earth has been very, very good to me. They gave me two beautiful daughters, a wonderful husband, a good career and a happy life' Here, in her darkest moment, she was expressing her gratitude for such a wonderful life," Clark said.

Clark said Zanos "was a fighter when it came to consumer rights."

Another former WTAE co-worker, Susan Brozek Scott, said Zanos' career was filled with "some amazing reporting, great journalism."

"Her pieces were good, they were solid. They were always thoroughly and diligently researched. She nailed the facts, she got all sides of the story and then she laid it out cleanly and clearly with tremendous on-air presence," Scott said.

"Yvonne had that radiant smile and was so photogenic. I don't know if people realized the depth and versatility of what she could do."

Jackson said Zanos "could carry on serious conversations about quantum physics with my daughter. ... Yvonne was fearless, but she had a mischievous side. She had the most amazing laugh that could just fill the room."

Pittsburgh actress Lori Cardille Rogal said Zanos - who grew up in Bethel Park and was a 1972 graduate of Bethany College - befriended her when they were both young models.

"She had such a positive outlook on life. She took me under her wing and encouraged me. She was so open, kind and giving," Rogal said.

Clark learned that after Zanos befriended his family when they moved to Pittsburgh.

"Her desk was next to mine. She had the most beautiful blue eyes, and she was always happy. We instantly became friends," Clark said.

Friends will be received from 2 to 4 and 6 to 9 p.m. Sunday and 5 to 9 p.m. Monday at Beinhauers, 2828 Washington Road, McMurray. Services will be held Tuesday in Christ United Methodist Church, 44 Highland Road, Bethel Park.

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