Here’s to You, Lisa

My friend Lisa

I meant to call my friend Lisa in December, when I saw on Facebook that she was recovering from a hospital visit. But life distracted me, as it often does, and the months flew by. She was on my mind just last week, when I drove by the low-rent motel on Indianapolis’ east side where we stayed as young reporters eager to squeeze an extra night out of a journalism conference in the big city. Good times. Then last night I learned I’d waited too long.

Lisa died yesterday after a brief battle with cancer. She was just 49.

Her obituary, written by a colleague at the Las Vegas Review-Journal, was a beautiful tribute to a woman who made a difference both professionally and personally. Lisa was a giver, and I wish I would have done more to thank her for the many blessings she brought to my life.

Lisa was the kind of friend you could work with every day, kick back with every night, and never get tired of being around. She was the kind of friend you could go years without seeing and instantly pick up where you left off. She was the kind of friend you’re lucky to find.

We met at The News-Sentinel in Fort Wayne, where she was a community news reporter and I was a lowly intern. Her move to the education beat opened up a spot for me when I graduated a couple years later. Ours was a young, energetic newsroom that worked and played hard. We genuinely enjoyed spending time together after deadline.

One of my most vividly hazy memories of Lisa is a “wine tasting” she hosted in her apartment near McMillan Park. She and her brother had a bet on who would get married first, and he lost. He paid up with a few bottles of expensive wine, which she graciously shared with her friends.

Lisa prepared a nice spread of cheese, crackers, grapes and other appropriate nibbles and set out to educate us on the finer points of fine wine. Sadly, all I remember is that high-end wine is quite tasty. (And something about wine having legs. But I might have been a tad tipsy by that point.)

Wine 101 may not have stuck, but Lisa does deserve credit for nudging this Indiana girl out of her culinary comfort zone. She introduced me to the world beyond hamburgers and sweet corn: Japanese, Korean, Moroccan, Thai and much more. Whenever I visited Vegas, I could count on Lisa to liberate me from the tourist traps and introduce me to something new. Dim sum. Fondue. Boozy milkshakes. Tapas. (Pro tip: make sure to enunciate when mentioning you went to a tapas place in Vegas.)

We also bonded over a mutual love for college basketball–and we managed to maintain our friendship despite our lifelong affection for arch-rival teams Indiana and Kentucky. We drove to Indianapolis more than once to watch her Wildcats take on my Hoosiers. If memory serves, she was even along for the ride during the infamous Hyundai Timing Belt Incident of 1995. For that alone, she deserved a medal.

Lisa was my gambling instructor too, introducing me to Kentucky horse racing and Las Vegas odds-makers. I doubt she spent much time feeding slot machines on her own, but she was always willing to join her friends and family when they did. The first time I visited Lisa with a mutual friend (also named Lisa, oddly enough), she won a couple hundred dollars while showing us how to play video keno and used the money to buy us tickets to a Cirque du Soleil show. That’s Lisa.

The last thing Lisa taught me was to cherish every minute I have with the people who matter to me. Because any minute could be the last.

Rest in peace, dear Lisa. You are missed already.