Deborah Rose column: Connecticut news icon was an inspiration

Deborah Rose

Deborah Rose

Deborah Rose / Hearst Connecticut Media

Sorrow found its way into my heart this past weekend.

Upon waking in the wee hours of Sunday morning and not being able to fall back to sleep, I picked up my tablet to catch up on the latest news.

A headline, “Farewell friend,” struck me and the warm, familiar face of longtime WFSB-TV anchor Denise D’Ascenzo smiled back at me from my tablet’s screen.

Her smile shone bright in my dark room.

Unexpected warm tears immediately streamed down my face as I read the statement WFSB shared late Saturday night, just before I had fallen asleep.

Denise died in her sleep at the age of 61. Her family believes she died of a massive heart attack.

The news anchor, who throughout her career earned 11 Emmys for broadcast journalism, among other accolades, joined the station in 1986 and was the longest-serving anchor at a television station in Connecticut.

She would have celebrated her 34th year at WFSB in March.

As I read the story through my increasingly blurred vision, I was flooded with emotion and had flashbacks of my youth.

Memories of many dinners eaten at the dining room table while watching the evening news on the TV in the living room surfaced.

The news was the last thing most children, myself included, wanted to listen to but I didn’t always call the shots when it came to the TV.

My family tuned into WFSB first, and so the news was a part of my life, often at dinner time and later in the evening.

As a child, I didn’t recognize the extent of what it meant to be a broadcast journalist. But I was impressed with Denise. It was exciting to see a young woman take center stage to report stories about the people and communities in our state.

Denise was a steady source for both local and national news, keeping viewers in the know. She was a reliable, respected voice in times of celebration and in times of crisis.

Her voice was familiar and recognizable, even comforting.

There were times the news was tolerable in my childhood, and Denise helped make it that way.

For a brief time, I thought maybe I could become a broadcast journalist when I grew up.

I was surprised at my emotional response to the news of her death. I hadn’t fully realized how she had impacted my life through her consistent personable presence on the news until the tears ran down my face.

In the hours and days that followed her death, I read many of the tributes her colleagues, friends, the individuals whose stories she shared on TV and viewers posted on social media and stated in stories.

She was a friendly face and a solid and fair reporter. She was an inspiration to aspiring journalists.

There is no doubt she was — and will remain — an icon in Connecticut news.

I never personally met Denise but was in her presence once at an event.

I neglected to introduce myself and share with her how she was the spark for my childhood desire to become a broadcast journalist.

Why is it we so frequently neglect to share with others how they touch our lives?

Time does not wait — for anything.

The majority of us go about our lives on the fast track, often taking for granted that we will be gifted with a new day, another opportunity.

But we are not all afforded that blessing.

Friends, family and even those we don’t know personally, but who have impacted our life in some small or big way — as Denise did for me — move on, leave our side or take their last breath.

May today be the day you make the time to share your gratitude and thanks with those who touch your life, or who have touched your life.

Deborah Rose is a lifelong New Milford resident who has worked at The Spectrum since its inception in 1998. She can be reached by email at