Cincinnati Public Radio

Remembering Coleen Tracey:

On January 22, 2005, the staff, friends and listeners of WGUC, as well as the Greater Cincinnati community, lost a dear friend. Coleen Tracey, WGUC's Community Relations Manager, died suddenly and unexpectedly at the age of 34. Coleen was WGUC's cheerleader, both inside and outside the station. But more importantly, she was a loyal, compassionate, selfless friend and the heart of the station.

Mark Perzel expressed the shock and sorrow of the entire staff with these words, spoken to the WGUC audience on Monday morning January 24th. "Her intelligence and wit brightened every day at work. Her encouragement and kind words, wonderful outlook on life and living, and determination to maintain WGUC's mission provided an energy that's irreplaceable. Words cannot describe the grief we feel. Coleen we love you and miss you."

Coleen was the cherished wife and life companion of Adam Fischer, beloved daughter of Jerry W. Tracey and his wife, Maureen, and the late Ida Houck Tracey Fee, and her husband, George. She was the adored older sister of Megan and Kathleen Tracey. Her family also included beloved cat Sophie and dog Stella.

She was a tireless and passionate advocate for a myriad of liberal causes and a fierce supporter of social justice. Coleen was well-known and respected by all in the Greater Cincinnati Progressive Community. Just as she did at WGUC, she threw herself into previous positions at Tender Mercies, Planned Parenthood, Stonewall Cincinnati and the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations. She also worked at City Hall for then-Councilman Tyrone Yates.

Coleen's trademark sense of humor permeated everything with which she was associated and that is what brings smiles to our faces as we remember our dear friend.

In remembrance of our dear friend and colleague Coleen Tracey, WGUC commissioned this painting by Cincinnati artist Ursula Roma. The painting hangs in the Cincinnati Public Radio facility and provides daily inspiration to all who encounter it. Ursula, who also loved and misses Coleen, offers this legend of the artwork’s meaning.

This painting shows a few of the things that Coleen loved:

She loved Adam – Adam’s hand is reaching from the left for the Claddagh.
Stella – her beloved pooch-mutt!
Sophie and Mabel – her cats
Music, especially bluegrass – Coleen was learning to play the Dobro.
She sang beautifully.
LIW=Lying Irish Whores – her Thursday book? group.
She loved fish imagery and cranes.
She loved Paperwhites and Stargazer Lilies…
Irish and Celtic Imagery – Celtic Knots
She loved emerald greens and olive greens.
She often wore hats in the summer and she wore and made necklaces.
She placed a ganesh statue on her car dashboard.
She loved to share Jameson Whiskey and Guinness Beer.
She loved people and had a quick wit and a wonderful sense of humor.
She was very present and generous and extremely loving.

This painting represents only a small portion of a beautiful person who left a very large hole in our hearts when she left.

Coleen Tracey loved music
WGUC events planner remembered as 'an angel'
By Maggie Downs, Enquirer staff writer
Reprinted from The Cincinnati Enquirer, Monday, January 24, 2005

Coleen Tracey was a carnivore. Her husband, Adam Fischer, was a vegetarian.

"But she would go to great lengths to make me something like vegetarian lasagna," he said. "The kind of lasagna that would take all day."

That's the kind of person she was - selfless.

Mrs. Tracey, 34, died Friday from an aneurysm. She was in Athens County with her husband, spending the weekend on his family's property.

Mrs. Tracey's big heart carried over into her work and philanthropy. She threw herself into her jobs at Tender Mercies, Planned Parenthood, Stonewall Cincinnati and the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations. She later worked at City Hall for then-Councilman Tyrone Yates.

Most recently, she was media relations specialist for classical public radio station WGUC-FM. She planned special events for the station, such as the Great Miami Arts Jam, a visual and performing arts showcase.

"She really was the heart of our operation," said Rich Eiswerth, WGUC general manager.

Her supervisor, Chris Phelps, said Mrs. Tracey had "passion and enthusiasm for everything she worked on.

"She was very much a guardian of WGUC and its place in the community," said Phelps. "She was definitely the person you would want in your corner."

Longtime friend Deborah Rambo described her as a "creature of light" - someone who could light up a room the second she entered it.

"She was, is, and always will be an angel," said Rambo. "And she just couldn't stay here with us any longer."

Mrs. Tracey met her husband at the Kentucky Bluegrass Festival in 1997. Music remained a passion for the couple throughout their romance. They would stay up late with friends, playing Mrs. Tracey's favorites - among them Gillian Welch, Alison Krauss, Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan.

"Everybody loved to hear her sing," Fischer said. "They would stay up for it."

Mrs. Tracey loved cooking, reading the newspaper and planning parties for her friends. She also filled their house with plants and always left the lights on to help them grow, even when her husband begged her to turn them off.

"She would protest, 'But the plants!' " he said.

The couple lived in Northside with their pets, cat Sophie and dog Stella.

"And the dog was named that so she could go out on the porch and yell 'Stella!' " said Fischer, noting his wife's trademark humor.

Other survivors include her father and stepmother, Gerald and Maureen, and two sisters, Megan and Kathleen.

Visitation will be 5-8 p.m. Tuesday at Jon Deitloff Funeral Centre, 4389 Spring Grove Ave. There will be no funeral service.

"She didn't want us to sit around and cry and be depressed," Fischer said. "She wanted us to play music and remember her."

© 2005, The Cincinnati Enquirer. Reprinted with permission.


WGUC's Community Relations Manager passed away on January 22. All her friends at WGUC miss her far more than words can express. We send our deepest sympathies to her husband, Adam Fischer, and her family.

How do we begin to thank the management, staff and volunteers of WGUC for the many moving tributes to our Coleen that have been posted on your website? You will never know how much support our family has drawn from your remembrances. It has truly helped us in our time of sadness.

I thought that I was pretty much hardened to the events in life, but each time I visited your tribute page I was brought to tears. With a father's pride, I knew that Coleen was a special woman, but I was unprepared for the amount of people who felt the same way.

Coleen loved working at WGUC, and after meeting so many of you, I see why she felt that way. Thank you again for all of your kind words and happy thoughts.

—Jerry Tracey and Family

When Coleen called or e-mailed, it was nearly always, "Hi Mom, it's #12!" We have been blessed with six children, and her and Adam's wedding was the last to happen; hence, she dubbed herself #12. She looked upon our family gatherings as "one big party." She loved our family as we did her, dearly.

That Friday evening she seemed to have two things on her mind: the house she and Adam were planning -- "getting it right so that when they got old, it would be easy to get around in" -- and not letting Adam, Wally and "Poppy" all go together, flying off somewhere, in case of some sort of accident, that we would lose them all at one time. I remarked that "yes, we would be devastated." She replied, that "yes, but somehow, we would survive." Premonition? I don't know.

She kissed us all goodnight and said she loved us, her usual way, and went on up to bed.

And then, she went Home. We tried our best to keep her, but she just couldn't stay.

We loved her as our own, and we are so very thankful to God, that He let us share her life for the time that we did--we would not have wanted to miss our Coleen. She completed our family. Her place of #12 will always be hers, and she will forever be at our parties. We have been honored to be Coleen's other parents.

—Ray and June Fischer, Coleen's other parents

My fondest and most prominent memory of Coleen is the day I came into her office and told her that my husband and I had finally been contacted about adopting a little girl. Coleen had been a source of encouragement through the classes and training that we were taking, as well as through the endless waiting. She checked regularly to see if there was any "action" in the process. Always hopeful and optimistic.

Putting others first, as she always did, she cried with me that day, and told me that I glowed as all new moms do. She was a special person that will always be remembered.

—Tammy Godby, WGUC Membership Manager

What did Coleen worry about after organizing an incredibly successful members appreciation event? Whether or not her hired singers' hands were cold! I will always remember that detailed expression of her overall love for others. Hand warmers. She thought of everything and everybody.

—Roberta Schultz, Raison D'Etre

Coleen and I went to St. Ursula Academy Together and then Xavier University. We photographed together, and she introduced me to Guinness Stout and Harp. I remember her dislocating her knee at the XU orientation and my running to get her dad. She screamed in utter pain as the doctor placed her knee cap back in place. At some point we lost touch but I never forgot her and the sweet, funny woman she was. I tried to find her but was unable to and I just read in SUA's Spring 2005 of her passing. I am saddened and devastated that such a vibrant, radical, and young force was gone. My thoughts, condolences, and prayers are with all of her loved ones.

—Adele Sakler, classmate at St. Ursula Academy

I actually just found out that Coleen had past away this morning.

I met Coleen when I was about 19 years old. I was volunteering to help with Stonewall Cincinnati, doing whatever I could to help the cause, except I didn't know much about the cause until I had an opportunity to talk to Coleen, who convinced me like many others to join the fight and stand beside her.

After Coleen decided to leave Stonewall to fight for another cause, she gave the board my name to take over for her. In the back on my mind I think she had been grooming me for that for a while.

Well, I didn't get to thank you properly, so I will thank you now. You truly made an impact on my life. I remember the Indian lunches on the slow summer afternoons, the phone calls to help figure out the next steps, the first time I met Adam. (That was the first time I really saw her smile.) Adam, Thank you for allowing me into the love that you shared together. It was, and still is, a wonderful memory to shoot for.

My partner and I are expecting our first child in August. Thank you for making this city and world that much better to bring him/her into. God bless you Coleen, and God be with you, Adam and your family.

—Jocelyn Robinson, formerly of Stonewall Cincinnati

Coleen represents the best of what I know to be an Irish woman. She proudly celebrated her heritage with a wonderful Celtic wedding and wedding trip to the auld sod.

We shared a common love (and general foolishness) of our pets. She wrote me the dearest condolence notes each time one of my feline frenzy went to its reward. Who else would name a pet "Stella" so that she could call her home from the front porch? Only Coleen.—Molly Moloney

My dear cousins, I am so sorry to hear about the passing of my dear cousin, Coleen. I am so sorry that I was never fortunate enough for our paths to cross... God bless you, cousin, and rest in Heaven with our blessed ancestors that have traveled before you. My sister, Mary Ann Pruett Laun, has done extensive research with our family history and we are all thankful, and we are hopeful to reunite with our "kin" soon.

—Susan Pruett Miali, Coleen's Cousin

One of my happy stories involving Coleen happened during Summerfair 2004. Coleen was working the Classics For Kids booth, probably because she loved children and being around them so much. She showed up and started to get the face-painting table set up and asked if my three-year-old daughter would like to be the first one to get her face painted.

Up until this point my daughter was engaged in her favorite pastime, bug collecting. This was an awesome year for it with all the 17-year cicadas. My daughter found one she really liked (as if one looks any different from another). She proudly had it in her hands when the offer for face painting came from Coleen. My daughter carefully put her new little friend down on the end of the table, and Coleen painted her face.

After the face painting my daughter asked Coleen, "Where my bud"? Coleen asked what she said, and my daughter said "My patata. Where my patata, my bud?" Coleen, confused, asked me what she was saying, and after a couple more interrogations we figured it out... She wanted to know where her cicada bug was—the one she set down and thought would still be there when she came back 15 minutes later. Since then it became a well-used inside joke for both Coleen and me.

Coleen would go out of her way to connect and relate with children. Once in a while I would have to bring my children into the office for a couple hours, and Coleen was always ready. The last time was just before January 1, 2005. She came by my office with bubbles and other goodies. She always had a magnificent glow about her when she was around children.

I'm not looking forward to the next time I bring my children in because I know they will ask where she is. I expect that will be a difficult conversation for me to have with my three children. The truth is she touched so many that more people will miss her than anyone will ever know.

—Don Danko, WGUC VP of Engineering

How sad. Coleen was my second cousin. I just learned about her passing from my brother, Tracey Milligan, but I never got the chance to meet her. Curiously, I also have three daughters: Colleen, Meghan, and Katie. Thank you for presenting this tribute to my cousin.

—Bernie Milligan, Coleen's Cousin

I only recently contacted Coleen, as her long lost second cousin. She was overwhelmingly responsive to my interest in her family (and hers to mine), and I felt I had to get to know my cousin better. It saddens me tremendously that the final chapter of Coleen Mary Tracey in my genealogical research was left to me. She may be gone but not forgotten. I loved you and will miss you.

—Tracey Milligan, Coleen's Cousin

I was Coleen's hair stylist and just recently learned of her passing. She was always so organized in scheduling her appointments with me. She was always so thoughtful and even wrote down her next three months' hair appointments in my book, while I was processing her hair.

I find it hard to erase her name off my book. In fact, I'm not going to take her name off my book. No one else will get this time. She and I, we are going to keep this time, and I will remember all those wonderful little things about her. She was so pleasant to be with. She always asked me how my daughter was. Now, as I think of her, her mother passed away at 49 and mine at 42. We shared our hearts about how we missed our mothers. We concluded that our similarities have made us strong. She was strong, and her accomplishments reflect this. I'll miss her.

See you on your next appointment Coleen. I know you won't be late!

—Pam Hail, Coleen's Hair Stylist

Shortly after Coleen arrived at WGUC, I turned to her boss, Chris Phelps, and said, "I like her. She's funny."

Funny was just one trait that made Coleen stand out from the crowd. She was smart, sassy, vivacious, simultaneously socially conscious and equal-opportunity irreverent -- and so good at what she did that she made it all seem effortless. Whenever Coleen ran the show, you knew it would go smoothly. What's more, her hours of behind-the-scenes work included extra touches no one would have missed if they hadn't been there, but that completed the picture because they were.

That sort of thing rubbed off. Last year, as I was organizing an event, at every turn I found myself asking, "What would Coleen do?" Obviously, she would gather brochures of Cincinnati attractions for the visiting group (80 strong). And she would present those brochures in attractive folders. Standing in a store, clutching 68 appropriate royal blue folders and a dozen not-quite-right turquoise ones, the answer to the question "What would Coleen do?" was obvious. Trips to several more stores finally yielded enough folders in the correct color, and nothing tickled Coleen more than hearing the entire saga.

Political touchstone, worshipper of hamentashen, teller of jokes ("That's nice!"), the heart and soul of WGUC, Coleen was a wonderful example to us all, living life flat-out, making everything she did count. To know her was indeed to love her.

—Naomi Lewin, Former WGUC Weekday Host

When I joined the WGUC staff last year, I entered an office full of bright, caring people who did their best to make me feel welcome. Coleen Tracey's comments, in particular, put me in the picture in some rather interesting ways. "Remember the freshman 15?" she said, referring to the weight that many new college students put on their first year. "The same is true here at WGUC. Someone is always feeding us, so beware!" She was, of course, right. The snack room nearly always features a plate of some sort of fattening goody and office lunches are a frequent occurrence. "Watch out for interesting e-mail messages, too," she warned. Right again. The jokes are rampant and always amusing. And, as a source of office gossip, she was unparalleled.

Coleen also took it upon herself to help me become acquainted with Cincinnati and recommended restaurants and activities on a regular basis. I think she also decided to try to upgrade my very basic wardrobe (knit pants and tops) by hinting broadly more than once that I should look at the Nordstrom sale web site. In my last encounter with her, she came into my office sporting a new pair of black patent leather clogs with a ski buckle. "You just have to visit this great shoe store I just found, " she enthused. "The owners are a wonderful couple, and they even have WGUC playing in the background." In her very unassuming and gracious way, Coleen made my transfer to Cincinnati from the East much easier. I shall miss her!—Carolyn Phillips, Education Outreach Manager

I worked as an intern under Coleen during the winter of 2003. She was a very spirited person who loved her job. She taught me a lot about the radio industry and about the real world. My heart goes out to her family.

—Jessica Cross, Former WGUC Intern

In Celebration and Remembrance of Coleen Tracey
(From Coleen's Memorial Service, January 25, 2005)

Dear Adam; Jerry and Maureen, Megan and Kathleen; George; all of Coleen and Adam's family and friends, gathered to remember our beloved Coleen:

I so wish that I was able to share these words, and my heart, with you in person. I am there with you in heart and spirit, of course.

Adam, thank you for loving Coleen so well. You were the love of her life, no question. Those of us who had been cheering Coleen along in romance and love were so happy when you came along. I will never forget her radiance at your wedding and the delight of that day.

It was a great honor and privilege for me to officiate your wedding. I can still picture her absolute glow and mirth, and all of you guys running around in those kilts.

I can remember all of those people gathered there who loved Coleen and you. And, all those people whom Coleen had loved so well -- people from every corner of life in Cincinnati.

Coleen cast such a wide net of love, laughter, friendship and care around so many of us. Her net and circles just got wider and wider, including more people, more causes, more ways to make a difference in the world.

It was Stonewall Cincinnati wherein Coleen cast her net upon me and brought me in so well. I had been serving on the Board and then was asked to serve as Executive Director with Coleen -- and we were the "two-person" Stonewall staff working with and for a most remarkable Board of Directors, many there today to remember and celebrate Coleen's life.

Coleen taught me everything I know about grassroots organizing and working for social change. In the midst of the serious work of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equal rights, with Coleen there was always time for laughter, perspective, a good cup of coffee and nearly every week, an Indian meal for lunch. We used to howl with laughter as she would look at the lunch menu, say that she really should order something different, and then order the same dish every time.

Coleen left light tracks wherever she went. Those of us fortunate enough to have known her can always keep a special place in our hearts for her and the grace she brought to our lives.

To all of you who loved her well, who knew she was an extraordinary woman, who appreciated her indomitable spirit, and those of you who laughed with her, sang with her, and dreamed with her of a world of dignity and respect for all persons, good for you.

I thank God for the gift of Coleen Tracey in my life, and all of you who loved her so well, particularly you, Adam.

As time goes by, I imagine that remembrances and celebrations of Coleen will surface, like she did, in both likely and unpredictable places... places where people accept and love each other freely and generously; in laughter, good coffee, green plants, dogs, cats and children; in passionate causes, Indian food, and of course, in music.

— Dr. Michael J. Adee, Santa Fe, New Mexico

My husband worked with Coleen at WGUC, and therefore I had many chances to interact with her over the years. Without a doubt, my favorite "Coleen story" was about her dog, Stella. Not too long after Stella came to live with Coleen and Adam, she ended up at the WGUC offices for a visit. When Kent met Stella he employed a couple of techniques he learned while training our dog, and when Stella complied Coleen was amazed! From then on Coleen called Kent "the dog whisperer," and grinned happily whenever they would exchange pet stories.

Coleen lived largely and will be missed widely. I always wondered how she managed to have such energy on the myriad projects with which she was involved. Now I know: she had much to accomplish in such a short time. We all know that our time on earth is finite, but we often live as if it is infinite. Coleen, on the other hand, lived her life in recognition of its finite qualities -- she had to make sure things got done! I can't think of a better example for all of us.

"Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever."—Mahatma Gandhi
— Terri Watson

I love rarely and always with closed doors. But Coleen walked into my heart the instant we met at dog school with our new pound pooches. It wasn't because she stage-whispered to her sun-colored pup, Stella, to watch our clever mutt, Jake, and it wasn't because she mentioned that she could "diagram the hell out of a sentence." It wasn't even because we soon realized we were both Celtic and Catholic and mad as hatters. It was because Coleen is Coleen.

I keep thinking of Emerson's quiet claim: "My friends have come to me unsought. The great God gave them to me." It's been a week now, and I still sob every day and wake to dazzling pain. I wouldn't have loved her any less if I'd known we'd be robbed of her so soon. And I could not love her more.

I wanted to tell everyone at WGUC something Coleen once told me: She would visit her mother's grave once a year, she said, and she always left behind one of her WGUC business cards. She was proud to be part of your family.

—Carol Keeley , Stella's in-laws

I've had a hard time putting my thoughts down. Coleen and I were such an unlikely pair!

  • Coleen was raised (very) Catholic; I was raised (very) Protestant.
  • She was West Side; I'm East Side
  • She was young; I celebrate anniversaries of my 49th birthday.
  • When we went shoe shopping, we joked about her size versus my size. I can't even repeat the conversations from clothes shopping together.

Over the years we had a lot of Skyline, tried every new pizza place, talked about families, friends, jobs, politics and just plain gossiped.

We shared joys, sorrows, humor and a rare and true friendship.

—Cathy Beltz, Former WGUC Chief Financial Officer

Coleen... Ha ha, there aren't enough words to describe this incredible lady. I met her when I was about eight. I'm almost 16 now. She has been the most amazing support in my life, and yes... I cry because I've lost her, but I can't help but beam to say that I knew her. She helped me through my junior high and grade school years, telling me never to let a boy pressure me into anything and sharing the wisdom she gained growing up. When I finally got my first bra, she came over to my house and praised me! She was so excited for me, and danced around singing this little, "Megan's got a bra" song, and I think about that all the time. She and Adam took my dad and I out to our first breakfast at Sugar and Spice, which became a regular meeting spot for us. Every Christmas, she would get all of her girlfriends these unbelievably tacky, yet comfortable, pajama pants. Those who know her well will tell you she lived in her pj's. I never take them off now.

The last time I saw Coleen was on New Years day. (In her pj's of course.) We hugged as she left to grab her stuff from my room where she had stayed in the night before. If I had known it to be the last hug, I would have never let go. Coleen... I love you.

—Megan Farris, Coleen's "daughter," partner in female activism and sidekick of fashion and kicking butt

I only met Coleen once (introduced by Rich Eiswerth at lunch), but I was moved by her kindness and enthusiasm.

I know many of the WGUC staff, who are some of the most kind, sincere people ever to gather in a workplace. It is no accident that this woman, whom I feel I have gotten to know through reading these tributes, worked at the station, a treasure-trove of music, mission and wonderful, loving individuals. I'm sure you filled her life just as she filled yours.

Please know you'll be in my prayers.

—Andi Ferguson, YMCA of Greater Cincinnati

Several years ago, Adam and Coleen had a mutual friend playing in a band in downtown Athens. As I also knew the band, I went along with Adam. He kept saying things like "What do you think of the blonde-headed girl?" and "I think I'm going to ask her out." Over the next few weeks and months he started saying different things like "I really like this girl," and then "I think I'll move to Cincinnati," and finally "Will you be in my wedding?"

There was no way to realize from that first meeting what Coleen would come to mean to my family and me. She quickly became a friend and sister in every way to myself, my wife and my other sisters; she became a role model to my daughters and a daughter to my parents. Most of all she filled a place in Adam's life with incredible joy and contentment—she really completed him.

I am grateful to Coleen for letting me share her family and friends too. I have met some wonderful people through Coleen and my life has definitely been better for having known her. No matter what I was doing she always had real enthusiasm for it. Sometimes more than I did! I will always miss her and love her.

—Wally Fischer, Adam and Coleen's Brother

Coleen's office is next to mine at WGUC. So in addition to working together on numerous station events, we were office "neighbors." There were times when she would be walking down the hall, past my office toward hers, just as I was running out through my office door, and we'd almost crash into one another. She joked that maybe we needed a traffic light outside of our office doors.

In the office or at one of the station's events she'd often let loose with some great quips and jokes that would have you bending over with laughter. Some were "family rated" and some bawdy enough to redden the face of a drunken sailor, but she was always one classy lady. And that combination is seldom seen.

"When Irish eyes are smiling,
Sure, 'tis like the morn in Spring.
In the lilt of Irish laughter
You can hear the angels sing."

I miss my friend—my "neighbor." But I'll always remember her laughter and her smiling Irish eyes.

—Gordon Bayliss, Former WGUC Vice President for Corporate Sales

What I will miss most about Coleen is her wonderful, witty and downright raunchy sense of humor. My wife, Julie, and I recently announced that we were expecting our first child. Everyone was full of the kind, but typical, smiles and congratulations. When Coleen heard about us through the grapevine she stopped by my office. I was on the phone at that moment so, as was typical of Coleen's sense of humor, she proceeded to pantomime the conception, complete with obscene gestures, and ended it with two big thumbs up.

There are certain people in our lives with whom we feel a special connection. Sure, you can "get along" with just about anyone, but with some you feel an instant bond; you "get" each other. That's the way I felt about Coleen. We shared a similar sense of humor and outlook on the world and it was great fun to laugh together about the ridiculousness of it all. I will miss you, Coleen. I fondly remember the fun times we had, and I mourn for those we will never have.

—Tim Lanter, Former WGUC Production Manager

Our ephemeral lives are themselves full of ephemera—music and living plants, for instance. Coleen shared her enjoyment of both with us. And then, there's that transitory and mundane thing called email. Hardly a week went by at work without an email message from Coleen that was humorous, insightful, or sometimes an unusual combination of the two. I've saved many of her messages. I happened to be the announcer on duty the Saturday the Columbia Space Shuttle crashed, and through an email I shared with the staff how I was moved by the comments of NASA's Ron Dittemore. Dittemore spoke of the fraternal nature of the NASA team, their professional and emotional dependency, and what it means when members of the team are tragically lost. Coleen's healing and poignant reply to my email was equally moving. As background to her comments, Coleen and Adam honeymooned in Ireland, and were overseas during 9/11:

I heard that too, and it made me cry.

When I was coming home from my honeymoon in September 2001, the Aer Lingus captain told everyone on board that there was a professional and emotional fraternity among pilots and he said that every aircrew in the world was mourning for the people on the 9/11 planes. It choked me up to think about it, but we were on one of the first trans-Atlantic flights back home, and everyone on the plane was nervous and heartsick. Beautiful to hear this foreign pilot claim the people on the fallen planes as his own brothers and sisters. Spontaneous applause and tears all around when, hours later at touchdown, he said in a thick brogue, "My friends, we have landed safely in America. Welcome home and God be with your country." I will never forget that flight.Coleen, thank you for giving so much of yourself in so many ways. God be with you on your journey. In our hearts, you'll always be part of our team.—Kent Teeters, WGUC Music Director

Coleen's energy and zest for life came across in every encounter. She displayed respect others' contributions and talents and always made our trio feel welcome and cared for at WGUC events. We will miss her.

—Violet Rae W. Downey, Raison D'Etre

Coleen was the queen of the Chamber Raves in October 2004, in a confusion of princesses. What a pleasure to arrive at the daily performance and see her smile! What a feeling of wind beneath my wings! She was just the one you would want when you're putting on a show. It was a privilege to work with her for a beautiful week. The whole team puts their hats on their chests and blows her a farewell kiss.

"Where beauty moves and wit delights, and signs of kindness bind me, there, oh there, wheree'er I go, I leave my heart behind me!"
—Jo Anne Warren, Cincinnati Chamber Music Society

I have struggled all week to find the right words to honor Coleen, knowing full well that she was the master craftsman and whatever I came up with would fall short.

No one could tell a story like Coleen. Her language was magnificently descriptive and always perfect.

Unbridled joy, passion, strength, enthusiasm, compassion, energy, a wealth of knowledge, conviction, caring, involved, and hysterical are just a few of the words that come to mind. Together they only start to paint a picture of the special and beautiful person of Coleen.

I've been told many, many times about how much Coleen loved her job. Coleen would tell me that herself. But more importantly, we loved Coleen.

I am grateful to have had the privilege to walk within her light and even now am amazed and inspired by her.

—Chris Phelps, WGUC Vice President for Content

I'm not going to wax on ad infinitum about what a special person Coleen was; I'm not eloquent enough and besides, others represented on this page have done and will do a much better job of defining her in well-deserved words of praise.

What I recall, and cherish, most about Coleen was her incredible sense of humor. She was a puck, in the best sense of that word; no doubt attributable to her Irish lineage.

I'll never forget the afternoon my family and I returned from a vacation and pulled into our driveway. Our house was festooned with every sort of elaborate, colorful and electrified Christmas decoration one could imagine—from the twinkling lights on the roof down to the large artificial tree glowing in the middle of the front yard. It would have been a spectacle at any time of the year, but even more so since it was mid-July.

Coleen had recruited a co-conspirator to "decorate" our house while we were out of town.

Our neighbors always kept their distance after that.

For one reason or another, I never got around to retaliating. Revenge, as the saying goes, is sweet. Not nearly sweet enough.

I owe you one, Coleen.

—Richard Eiswerth, WGUC General Manager

Though I didn't know Coleen well, I remember her from early morning telephone sessions when we were taking pledges from listeners. A couple of years ago, Coleen received a call from a former boyfriend of mine who heard Mark Perzel announce my name on the radio, and he specifically requested me. After taking her phone, I discovered who it was and turned crimson red, blushing and quite embarrassed while everyone on the phone bank stared at me. She kidded me because he didn't even pledge!

She will be missed. My sincere sympathy to all her close friends at WGUC. —Barb Cummins, WGUC Volunteer

My first thoughts remembering Coleen have been of her indignation at inequalities and discrimination. She entirely "got it." Her compassion was obvious, and her outrage was just beneath the surface. At the same time, she was positive and joyous to be around. She improved many lives in many ways and will be sorely missed.

—Scott E. Knox, Attorney at Law

My memory of Coleen Tracey is of her smiling.

Over the years I saw her representing WGUC all over this region, from the Fitton Arts Center in Hamilton, to Music Hall downtown, to members' events at the Zoo, and she always was joking, smiling and giving people the business. By any measure, there's not nearly enough of that to go around.

We'll miss you, Coleen. Thank you for being with us, if briefly. We all had fun when you were around.

—Thane Maynard, Host of The 90-Second Naturalist

Coleen is our treasure. She will always be cherished deep in our hearts, even while we still listen for her footsteps down the hall and her friendly greeting as she would pass by. We will think of her during every facet of our day-to-day work. She was an integral part of our lives, and we spent more time with her than members of our own families... She is our family and our hearts are broken. We love you, Coleen, and we are thankful for the time we had with you.

"May the road rise to meet you, and may the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face; the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of his hand."
—Judi Wagner, Former WGUC Traffic Manager

I don't know where to start… My heart is broken... I've lost one of my favorite people—ever. I've read all the memories from my colleagues and other folks whose lives were touched by Coleen, and I just don't know where to begin.

Coleen loved to hear about my boys and, more recently, my granddaughter, and beg to see pictures. Each time we'd have a conversation about them (the kids and Amaya), I knew exactly what would be next. I'd get a beautifully-written e-mail with advice, but certainly not in a preachy way. Here's this 30-something gal giving this ol' 50-something-goofball advice. And it was such damn good advice—always.

We'd go on forever about music. She had great taste and, in fact, was the first one to mention Norah Jones to me several years back. Coleen could be as elegant as the job required or as down-home and funky as any of us... Not many can hold down both ends and do it honestly.

I'll always hold her incredible smile and that wonderfully-beautiful twinkle in her eye here in my heart.

I've heard it said so many times before that he or she made a room light up when they entered it. I always thought to myself "Yeah, that's nice. A nice compliment," but I never really experienced it for myself until I met and got to know you, Coleen. Thank you so very much.

—Brian O'Donnell, WGUC Morning Host

This is indeed a great loss to all who knew and loved her. Coleen always brought something to the table: thoughtfulness, creativity, humor, intelligence, style, courage and positive energy. Coleen was absolutely her unique self and, therefore, always wonderful and always inspiring. I will miss her. —Jackie Roberto, Madison Design Group

How shocking and sad. Coleen was terrific in helping to prepare and execute a wonderful 40th anniversary for the station. I just wished that she would have lived as many years. Peace. —Jennifer Mooney, Former WGUC Board Secretary and Co-Chair of WGUC's 40th Anniversary Committee

I met Coleen last summer when the Business Courier sent me over to take some photos of station GM Rich Eiswerth for a story we were doing on WGUC's new HD Radio Technology. Coleen suggested I get some shots of Rich with the station's new BMW X5 "mobile billboard." We went out and found the van parked in the employee parking lot. I liked the van but I didn't like the background. I made a photo of her with the van so I could show her on my camera that the background was distracting. She agreed and within 5 minutes, she had gotten the van driven up onto the bridge/walkway over to Music Hall. The curved roof of the walkway made a much better background. Rich came out, we put him in the van, and that was the start of a really good photo shoot.

She was fun to work with and really good as WGUC's media liaison. But you all knew that. Please accept my condolences.

—Mark Bowen, Freelance Photographer/Cincinnati Business Courier

I fondly remember Coleen as a positive, creative, stylish, lovely person who always had an encouraging word and solution for every obstacle. She lived life to the fullest and served as a reminder to me to do likewise, counting each day as the blessing it is.—Robin Gehl, WGUC Vice President for Programming

Ever since I heard the sad news about Coleen I have been consumed with thoughts about her and her family, and about the strange nature of life in general. On a beautiful day like today, the loss of someone as wonderful as her just doesn't make sense.

What made Coleen so wonderful was that while she could be seriously dedicated to causes she believed in and very dedicated to her work, she had such a warmth and easy smile that she was just a joy to know and be around. She was truly a treasure in that way.

In a strange way, even though her death is so sad, it's also inspirational. Coleen was exemplary in the way she led her life, and I think we all want to be a little like her. She will live on in us.

I give my condolences to her family, especially Adam. My heart goes out to all those who will miss Coleen like I will.

—Julie Courtney, Madison Design Group

My heart is breaking. I will so miss Coleen and the wonderful combination of friendship and working relationship that we had. She was often my sounding board, and I hers. Professionally, there was no person more resourceful, creative or reliable. Personally, there was no person more warm, funny or supportive.

To her family, friends and colleagues at WGUC, my heart goes out to you. While difficult to do now, I know in time we'll be able to celebrate all that Coleen meant to us and will continue to mean to us because her spirit will never leave. For now, we cope with that empty feeling in our hearts.

Hug those close to you and revel in each day. And sing... never stop singing.

—Kevin Reynolds, WGUC Public Relations Coordinator

When I first met Coleen, it was to talk about the arts in Cincinnati. Her passion for music, dance and all things creative was so much a part of her. Coleen had a way of greeting every day with cheerful enthusiasm. You just couldn't escape her infectious sense of humor either. On one occasion, and I still don't know how she convinced me to do this, Coleen called me up to describe what she thought would be "the perfect Halloween costume" for me to wear at my upcoming office party. "It is this cool 'Eve' body stocking -- all flesh tone," Coleen coaxed. "Everyone will love it ---trust me..." The next day -- the costume box arrived, complete with inflatable snake, Lady Godiva-style long blonde wig and, yes, two brown buttons to be pinned atop the body stocking, strategically over each... Well, you get the picture. I called Coleen up immediately, exclaiming "Oh my God! You can't be serious!! I will look naked!"

"Don't think twice," Coleen said. "It was the costume I wore to the Taft party not long ago, and it nearly got me kicked out by a security guard who spotted me from a distance, thought I was stark naked and was ready to haul me out by my buttons. But I got a laugh when he saw the whole thing up close."

Calmly, Coleen reminded me that it was, after all, just a costume of a biblical character and that I should "Go for it, girl. You gotta have a little fun -- life is short!"

Far too short, dear friend. Thank you for every smile and fun-filled minute, for the good advice and tender gestures of kindness to me and my family. We will always treasure our time with you. Truly, it was much too short.

—Susan Eiswerth

My fondest memories of Coleen were working as a volunteer at the fund drives. The room would light up when she entered. She had a great smile, and her personality matched her smile. She always spoke to everyone and loved life to its fullest. She will be missed at WGUC and by everyone she touched.

"We are here only for a short time, make the most of it & treat others as you wished to be treated."
—Tom Winkler, WGUC Volunteer

Coleen will be missed in so many ways. She would come in my office and always have a compliment of some type, and then ask if she could use my mirror and borrow my swipe card to get back into the building. She would give me great advice on my life as a single mother, would listen to everything I had to say but would not judge me in any way. Her wisdom was far beyond her years, and I will miss that great advice. I miss you.

"While we are mourning the loss of our friend, others are rejoicing to meet her behind the veil."
—Aron Winkler, WGUC Membership Coordinator

From all of us with The Downtown Residents Council, to the family and friends of Coleen, please know the thoughts of your neighbors and friends are with you all. —Downtown Residents Council

Coleen was a great person to know—both personally and professionally. She always had words of encouragement and support for me in my various jobs. She was a great cheerleader to have and I will miss her.

—Michelle Padilla, Cincinnati Museum Center

Coleen was a shining example of someone fully engaged in life—bright and capable, cheerful and supportive, always willing to share her talents, and eager to bring people together. Her easygoing personality made it so inviting to seek her advice or opinion; she had such a sharp mind and no-nonsense attitude, and loved to sink her teeth into whatever problem or task I might present looking for her advice. Everything she did demonstrated that she valued other people and their interests, and found genuine pleasure in doing whatever she could to help. And no matter how busy, she would always make time to work her magic on a press release, make a few strategic phone calls, or just listen compassionately. If it was a down day, I'd make a point to swing by her office for a little dose of sunshine. This is an immeasurable loss -- for her family, her many friends, her colleagues current and former, and for the greater community. I am heartbroken.

—Suzanne Bona, Sunday Baroque Host

I was so saddened to hear Mark's announcement of Coleen's passing on the radio this morning. I volunteered with her at WGUC—at Summerfair and during fund raisers. She was a bright light. I recall a saying I once read that is very appropriate:

"Mourn not too long that she is gone,
Rejoice forever that she was."
—Karen McFarland, WGUC Volunteer

Her intelligence and wit brightened every day at work. Her encouragement and kind words, wonderful outlook on life and living, and determination to maintain WGUC's mission provided an energy that's irreplaceable. Words cannot describe the grief we feel. Coleen we love you and miss you.

—Mark Perzel, WGUC Evening Host

Coleen was a dear friend and co-worker the two years I worked at WGUC as a sales representative. I will deeply miss her. She was always an understanding, compassionate, supportive and positive person. Coleen was a unique woman -- very multi-faceted and with many creative talents. She helped me with encouraging words during some tough times as well as passing on useful tips/coupons to get extra discounts using my J. Jill credit card. I will miss her smile and that little twinkle in her eye that always intrigued me to think that I was only scratching the surface of the deeper, passionate person she really was. —Julie Savchenko, former WGUC Sales Representative

I had the honor of knowing and working with Coleen for six years. She was a special and unique person. Her appreciation for life was unquenchable. Her work skills and quality were impeccable. She was wise way beyond her mere 34 years. She was always looking to improve another person's situation, yet she was always smart enough to look after herself physically, emotionally and spiritually.

I will miss her terribly. She was my Irish lass.

—Len Sternberg, Former WGUC Major Gifts Specialist

I was watching my young son play with a big toy that had lots of interlocking gears, and I thought about Coleen and how short and beautiful life is. Like these gears, every action we take in life affects so many others in innumerable ways. I cannot imagine how many gears Coleen touched in her life, mine included, and they are all spinning far slower now. A gaping hole has been torn in the system.

It's not profound, certainly, but it was the best I could do at the time because I didn't want my baby boy to see me cry.

—Andrew Lucyszyn, Former WGUC Website Coordinator

Coleen may have been only 34 years old, but she was an "old soul" in the best possible sense. She was the kind of person you went to for advice – both personal and professional. She listened and offered ideas, but more importantly, she made you feel like you could handle it, no matter what the "it" was.

I'll miss her saying "Hey Girl!" from down the hall. I will always admire her honesty and envy her unique style. I will miss her wicked-good sense of humor. I am grateful for her friendship and I will always carry her in my heart.

—Sherri Mancini, WGUC Vice President for Development

"I give you this one thought to keep -
I am with you still - I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am the sunlight on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.

When you awaken in the morning's hush,
I am the swift, uplifting rush
of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not think of me as gone -
I am with you still -- in each new dawn."

-- Native American prayer


Cincinnati Public Radio