CHICAGO (CBS) — On her last day of work at the Chicago Sun-Times, columnist Stella Foster got a hug and kiss from Mayor Rahm Emanuel, just one small part of a day of recognition of her 43-year career at the paper.
CBS 2’s Jim Williams reports Foster started as a secretary to late gossip columnist Irv Kupcinet, before becoming his consultant, and later taking over the column after his death.
To say Foster was a trailblazer is an understatement. On Monday, she penned her last column for the newspaper, after 43 years in the business.
For Foster, the front page of her newspaper confirmed there was no turning back on Monday, her last day in office before retirement.
The paper’s front page on Monday read “Stella Says Goodbye.”
“I think I must be saying goodbye, that’s all I could think,” Foster said Monday. “It makes me sad, because my readers are, God, they’re missing me so much already.”
The Sun-Times has been her professional home since 1969, when – just a few years out of Calumet High School – she went to work for legendary gossip columnist Irv Kupcinet.
She said the number one lesson she learned from her mentor was, “You must tell the truth.”
Kupcinet urged Stella to always make that one last phone call in search of scoops.
When Williams was former Mayor Richard M. Daley’s press secretary from 1992 to 1997, Foster would call him every day to check in on the goings-on at the mayor’s office.
“You’ve got to check your facts. You’ve got to make sure that you know – to the best of your ability and knowledge – that this information is absolutely correct, and I take a lot of pride in that. That’s what I learned from Kup,” she said.
When Kupcinet died nine years ago, Foster got her own column, and she continued covering celebrities and community events, but her focus was much greater.
In 1992, she wrote an opinion piece for the Sun-Times titled “Killing By Blacks Must Stop,” about escalating black-on-black crime in major cities.
As she headed into retirement, Foster stood by her longtime criticism of black-on-black crime.
“You have to be. This is going on in our neighborhoods. Sometime, I think the Ku Klux Klan must be celebrating big time on the weekends, saying ‘Oh, that’s ten more,’” Foster said of what has become regular headlines of dozens of young black men shot every weekend, usually in acts of gang violence.
While some have accused her of airing the black community’s dirty laundry, and said African Americans should not be so critical of the plight of gang violence, Foster said, “There lies the problem with the black community. They need to police themselves. That’s what the Italian Americans do, that’s what the Jewish people do, that’s what the Irish people do. We’re the only ones that have such a disconnect … to one another, and what is going on in our community.”
That candor brought out the critics, but also won her lots of fans, who have written countless notes since Foster announced her retirement last month.
Asked how gratifying it has been to accomplish all she has while working in her hometown, Foster said, “I wouldn’t do it anywhere else, but in Chicago.”
Foster said it was her decision to retire, to get some rest after 43 years of phone calls and meeting deadlines.
But she’s not going away. There will be a gala in her honor at the end of the month, and in October, she’ll be the grand marshal of the Columbus Day parade.