MaryEllen Locher, co-anchor for WTVC News Channel 9 for 20 years, died on June 9 at her home surrounded by her family.
It is not often in this life that one is blessed to be touched by someone whose very presence shines a ray of hope and faith to the darkest corners of the world around her. Today, the Tennessee Valley grieves the loss of a truly inspiring and greatly loved community leader, news personality, wife, mother and friend. To her family, she was Cissy; to the rest of those she knew and loved, she was Mel, or MaryEllen.
She was born MaryEllen Locher on Dec. 14, 1959, in Johnstown, Pa., to the late George Thomas Locher and surviving mother, Zora Gjurich Locher. From the time her personality began to emerge, it was obvious that this energetic little girl with naturally curly hair was going to make her presence known in this world. With a quick wit and a mischievous twinkle in her eye she took on life with vigor, compassion and humor.
She graduated from Conemaugh Valley High School in 1977 and continued her education at Penn State, graduating in 1981 with a major in communications.
She began her career as a reporter at WJAC in Johnstown shortly thereafter and then moved on to WTOV in Steubenville, OH. From there, in 1985, she came to the Tennessee Valley as Chattanooga’s first health reporter at WTVC where she became the co-anchor of the area’s leading news team.
While working as a health reporter, she was diagnosed with cancer and began a battle that would last nearly 20 years.
Mel knew that these years were a gift, and she made it her goal to touch as many people as she could with hope and to spend her time doing God’s work.
She and her husband, David, were married in 1988 and gave birth to their son, Alex in 1989. Much of her time and effort was spent in seeing that he understood how precious life was, and that he knew that God was in charge and would never fail him.
Her efforts to make this world a better place and minister to those who struggle with life’s challenges were evident in her accomplishments.
She received numerous awards for her work in journalism and she was a founding member of the Chattanooga Make A Wish foundation.
She started a program called Hats from the Heart, providing comfortable and stylish hats for those who lost their hair while battling cancer. This program is now in hospitals all across America.
No one’s heart was bigger than Mel’s, especially for the children. More recently she established the Children of Breast Cancer Fund, to provide much needed funding to help the children of those women fighting breast cancer.
She was most recently honored when Memorial Hospital named their new breast center the MaryEllen Locher Breast Center at Memoral. This was an honor that humbled her greatly.
Mel never met a stranger. Her position in the public eye brought many people to her door and she always seemed to have time for them. Whether it was a phone call from an unknown friend fighting cancer, or a letter from a fledgling journalist, she took her responsibility to them seriously and gave all she could give.
MaryEllen was a fighter and fought to the very end. Her faith in God was evident to all who knew her. She once said, “Life isn’t easy…not for anyone.” But she made no apologies for her faith in Christ and encouraged those around her to put their trust in Him and accept His gift of eternal life.
Those whose life MaryEllen touched, will all agree, she leaves behind an eternal peace in all of us that will never fade, and we are better for it.
She is survived by her husband, David; son, Alex; stepson, Justin; her mother; sisters, Linda Locher Leckrone, of Nashville, and Judy Locher of Philadelphia; and brothers, G. Thomas Locher Jr. of Johnstown and Richard Locher of Philadelphia.
Funeral services will be Sunday at 3 p.m. at the Hixson United Methodist Church, officiated by Rev. Mark Davis and Rev. Randy Martin.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that contributions be made to the MaryEllen Locher Memorial Fund, Box 4032, Chattanooga, TN 37405. Donations to this fund will be distributed to causes close to MaryEllen’s heart.
Condolences may be sent at www.heritagefh.com
The family will receive friends Saturday from 4-8 p.m. at Heritage Funeral Home, 7454 E. Brainerd Road.