Veteran 6ABC anchor Lisa Thomas-Laury announced Wednesday that she is officially retiring from the station she has been with since 1978.
In 2003, the anchor-reporter went on medical leave after she was diagnosed with POEMS syndrome, a rare autoimmune disorder. She returned to the station in 2007 but had to take another leave after the disease returned.
"I'm feeling good. I really am," Thomas-Laury said. "I think this last illness was going to take a toll and I was going to need to make a decision to turn the page. I've had a great career. I've enjoyed the ride and I'm looking at this as a new beginning and not a real end."
She is writing a book about autoimmune diseases with a prominent medical journalist. "There are so many people who suffer needlessly because there's a lack of information. I want to share my story and the medical crisis that sidelined me in my career," Thomas-Laury said. "You can live a normal life, you can move on and make the best of your life."
Proceeds will go to charity.
Thomas-Laury joined 6ABC from Nashville, where she happened to cross paths with Oprah Winfrey. "I remember watching this wonderful black woman anchoring the news," Thomas-Laury said. "It was a small market and she was soloing a broadcast."
In a video posted on 6ABC's Facebook, Winfrey relayed her congratulations to Thomas-Laury. "You and I met back in the '70s . . . I wanted to go to Philadelphia. WPVI didn't hire me, they hired you," Winfrey said.
Thomas-Laury was a trailblazer in her own right, one of the few African American women to anchor a broadcast at the time. "I'm proud to be a pioneer in broadcast journalism. The viewers tell me I made a positive impact. I always kept that in mind. You want to set a good example when you're one of the first. [Former KYW anchor] Beverly Williams and I would talk about how important what we were doing was."
6ABC anchor Rick Williams said one of Thomas-Laury's strengths was her ability to move from hard to soft news. "I model myself after her ability to shift," Williams said.
"Covering the Republican National Convention was just as important and exciting as doing a 100-year-old's birthday party," Thomas-Laury said. Among other career highlights, she mentioned the royal wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana, President Bill Clinton's second inauguration, and any time she got to cover stories about children.
Williams also noted Thomas-Laury's smile and laugh. Her sense of humor came into play one particularly hot day, when Williams wore a suit jacket, tie, and shorts on air, knowing viewers would not be able to see his clothes below his waist. That is, until Thomas-Laury made him stand up and show the viewers his peculiar choice of clothing.
Thomas-Laury thought one day her career would take her to New York, but she fell in love with physician William Laury, whom she married and with whom she had two sons. She also fell in love with Philadelphia.
"Philadelphians take their news anchors seriously. I would hear the good, but I would also hear the negative," Thomas-Laury said. "I remember a gentleman once sent me a drawing of how to properly apply eyeliner. Lo and behold, he was right."
The flare-up of her illness after her first return to 6ABC led to another round of chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant. Thomas-Laury said she knew she would have to rethink her future. That led to her decision to retire.
"I appreciate the support of our viewers, the loyalty, the friendship, because it has been a three-decades-long friendship," Thomas-Laury said.