Remembering Nancy Duffy

It’s rare that you get to work with people you admired growing up but I was fortunate enough having been influenced by Nancy Duffy.

I learned what I know about The Onondaga Nation from Nancy Duffy’s reports, the attention to detail and ability to make you remember the story. It wasn’t “those people in Nedrow” as it had been when I was growing up. They were a people with a proud heritage and governmental structure parts of which our own American government is based upon.

She didn’t cover a story like a wool blanket. Nancy would rip the sheets from under the blanket, discovering some angle no one knew was there.

Pioneers tend to become part of our popular culture and Nancy was no exception. When I was younger one of my cousins was given a nickname because “she told everything.” That nickname was Nancy Duffy.

My first professional association with Nancy was through the Syracuse Press Club. At a time when black journalists were branching off into their own thing, Nancy extended an olive branch to a few of us who owned our own papers. We were invited to sit with the club and participate in a panel discussion on the plight of black-owned newspapers. Instead of responding to the confrontation, Nancy Duffy, along with Walt Shepperd, challenged us to join the Syracuse Press Club and become part of the future.

We were given free memberships for that year. During that time I became a member of the board of directors and then an officer of the club.

Several years later I was elected to serve as Syracuse Press Club president. Here I was running a “black newspaper,” owning the smallest paper in the market, but leading one of the most prestigious media groups in the region. This was all because of the open arms of friendship and inclusion created by Nancy Duffy’s term as Syracuse Press Club president.

Nancy Duffy honored, respected and celebrated heritage whether it was the heritage of her own Irish background or the heritage of others. It wasn’t unusual for Nancy to have Irish dancers followed by an authentic Cree Indian at the same meeting. We’d all learn something.

You’d think by all the letters and program interruptions that Nancy Duffy was a saint. She wasn’t. But she could write and air a story making you believe that they truly exist.

But for today saints do exist and they appear in the form of pioneering women like Nancy Duffy who like all those who venture first, lay their souls across the barbed wire of change so that the rest of us can get across.