I’ve had the privilege of working with Delores McCain for the last 10 years or so. We worked together on various stories for the Austin Weekly News and did Streetbeat once a week for all that time. While she had some reservations about me at first (“You were so quiet and introverted,” she once told me) she soon loosened me up and we really enjoyed working together. I feel that I was accepted by people on the West Side, in part, because I was with Delores. She was so well-known and respected that people probably figured if I was with Delores I was OK. I was amazed and amused at her determination to get people to voice their opinions for Streetbeat. She would start by asking that week’s question and if they were unwilling, she’d move on from there to flattery, cajoling and begging. If that didn’t work the next step would be more direct. “Black people are always saying that nobody wants to listen to them-this is your chance to be heard,” she would say. Occasionally she’d pull out all the stops. We were in LaFollette Park one day and came across a group of young men. When all her attempts to get them to talk failed she moved into her ‘mom’ mode. ‘Don’t make me take a switch to you!’ she said. They laughed at this and finally opened up. Long ago Chicago journalist Finley Peter Dunne said that newspapers ‘comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.’ This was Delores’ approach. She would go out of her way to help those she wrote about who needed help, but had no sympathy for those she felt were in the wrong. I was amazed by the number of prominent people in the black community that she knew. So many places we went she would greet people by their first names, and usually with a hug as well. If she didn’t know them when we got there, they were certainly on a first-name basis when we left. We became good friends. My wife called Delores ‘my second wife.’ Not always a good thing when the two of them would gang up on me. I learned an awful lot from working with Delores but mostly we just had an awful lot of fun, and I’m going to miss her an awful lot as well.”
Frank Pinc is a photographer for the Austin Weekly News
“Delores meant pure warmth. It wasn’t a Friday morning if I didn’t get to run around the Wednesday Journal front desk for my hug. She was one of the best huggers I’ve ever had the pleasure hugging. I pretty much adopted her as my Chicago ‘mom’ as soon as I started working here. I will most certainly miss her laugh as well. She was just the sweetest, let’s-get-it-done kind of women with some of the best stories.”
Kate Pancero, assistant editor for Chicago Parent
“Well, more than anything she was a person who worked behind the scenes to make sure that the voices of her people (African Americans) were heard. I have been told that there are two kinds of people in this world. There are kings-a king is the person who is always out front; the most noticeable person in the kingdom; the one who lives for the attention. And then there are king makers- that is what “Mama Dee” was. Her focus was to use her position to put the spotlight on young people who she believed were kings in the making. She was the kind of person who would force others into greatness. I will forever be in her debt. Though the doors would open for her, she would hold them open for us. Love always-Malcolm, Stacia and the ‘Crawford Boys.'”
Malcolm Crawford, AWN columnist and executive director of the Austin African American Business Networking Association
“In May 2003, before KIPP Ascend Charter School had a location, we were holding parent meetings in the Austin Public Library and the Columbus Park Refectory. Delores somehow found out about our school and came to one of our meetings. I remember talking to her after the event. She was all smiles and asked hard questions. She was instantly supportive of the school and wrote a very nice piece that helped build interest in our school. I know that she is one of the reasons that we were able to fill our first class of fifth graders so quickly. She had a great sense of humor and was always so positive. Over the school’s first six years, Delores was one of the most supportive people of our school. She would show up with her camera and her Streetbeat questions and quiz our students. She always had interesting questions to ask them, and they were thrilled to be in the paper. We were always honored to work with her. She made our students feel special for working so hard and for getting ready for college. Delores probably visited our school five to 10 times over our first 6 years. Every time she would be generous with her hugs, and our students would remember her. She was always looking out for positive things to highlight in Austin. She made all of us feel special. Delores was a great journalist and an even better person. She will be missed.”
Jim O’Connor, founding principal of KIPP Ascend Charter School, currently Project Director at Advance Illinois.
“Delores was pure sunshine. Her sweet and sassy attitude always made my day. I will miss her sitting at the front desk in reception telling people off who definitely deserved it, and those people actually thanking her for it. She always had words of advice whether it was… ‘you’re going to get through it’ or ‘snap out of it!’ She was a treasure. Down to earth and hysterical. I will miss her so much.”
Missy Laurell, display ad representative for Wednesday Journal Inc.
“Delores was one of the warmest people I’ve met in my life. She always had a smile on her face. Even in the face of adversity, she was friendly, caring and wanted to know all about you. A strong woman and no shrinking violet, Delores was surprisingly humble. When my niece asked to interview her for a grad school assignment, Delores couldn’t imagine herself as a good interview candidate. With a little coaxing she finally agreed and was pleasantly surprised at how much she enjoyed sharing her amazing experiences during the civil rights movement. I’m not sure if she realized what an inspiration she was to my 23-year-old niece. The world could use plenty more warm, humble and smiley people. What a shame to lose this one too soon. May her memory be an inspiration to all of us.”
Nancy Schankerman, director of advertising and marketing for Chicago Parent Magazine
“Rainy days-that’s how I’ll remember Delores. It may seem like a gloomy memorial, but not for me. Whenever it rained, I knew just what to expect as I dashed into work. There was Delores, ready to pounce with those same words she always greeted me with on a rainy day: ‘You better get out of that rain! Don’t you know sugar melts?’ I must have heard that line a hundred times from Delores, and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one, but I always loved hearing it. Delores knew just how to lift you up on those rainy days. I’d walk down those stairs at the Wednesday Journal office any chance I got just to chat her up. She’d be sitting there, smirking with that suspicious look of ‘What kind of mischief are you trying to start this time?’ My efforts to rile Delores with my sass would always backfire, as she would leave me stupefied by her sharp comebacks. One of my other favorite quotes of Delores was during Cinco de Mayo. Some of the guys asked if she wanted to celebrate with some margaritas, to which she replied, ‘Do I look Italian to you?’ I never let her forget about that one, and rainy days will never let me forget about Delores.”
Evan O’Brien, content manager for Wednesday Journal, Inc.
“Delores was a delightful person to know and work with. Her funny, sassy sense of humor brought many laughs. She was a good listener and encouraged us to do things we might not have thought to do. She lead a good life and will be sorely missed.”
Barb Kizelevicus, classified account executive for Wednesday Journal, Inc.