Looking Back And Looking Forward With Catherine Pegram On Her Last Day At WABI TV 5
As we told you earlier this afternoon, Friday was long-time WABI anchor Catherine Pegram's last day with TV 5.
From 2007 to 2010 I had the pleasure of working alongside Pegram as a reporter for WABI. I was always impressed with how she kept her focus on the work and was an example of pure professionalism. We experienced our first pregnancies together at WABI 5, and she's one of the people I am grateful to have kept in touch with all these years later, as I've changed careers and gone into radio.
What you may not know about Pegram is the story of how she came to work here in Maine, so let me tell you a little about my retiring friend.
Pegram got both her undergraduate degree in journalism and her graduate degree in broadcast journalism from Northwestern University. From there, she began to live and work in Washington D.C. (where her graduate studies ended). As fate would have it, young Pegram would end up at a journalism conference back at Northwestern where she was introduced to the news director for News Center 2 here in Bangor.
Pegram ended up working for News Center 2 from 1994 to 1998. That's where she met the man who would eventually become her husband, Jeff Solari.
"I was the 6 and 11 PM producer and he was sometimes the fill-in sports anchor. So I was his boss. We became good friends over watching 90210 and it all just blossomed from there. "
After her time with News Center 2, Pegram worked for a couple of years in Pensacola, Florida while Solari got a gig in Mobile, Alabama. Then the couple both got jobs in Oklahoma City.
"He wanted to come back here so he could get into sports radio because he was tired of TV. So it was just supposed to be long enough for him to get his reel together. That was 16 and a half years ago."
While Solari worked on his radio career, then news director, Jim Morris, hired Pegram as a reporter and 5 o'clock anchor at WABI TV 5.
"Then I became a noon and 5 o'clock anchor and reporter. I moved at some point to anchoring the 6 PM. And then I paired down my schedule for family and life and became just a noon anchor and reported. And then 2 years ago, I took on the Assistant News Director role and noontime anchor."
I recently asked her what some of her favorite memories were from the past 16 years at TV 5.
"Well, I definitely remember waddling into work, uber pregnant, and hauling in some $10 chair from the Salvation Army to sit at my office so I could avoid bed rest. I blame Chris Ewing that I gave birth 6 weeks early because he had a cold and he gave it to me and I ended up coughing so hard I induced labor."
(I totally remember her in that chair. It was a huge recliner and the sight of this professionally dressed and very serious pregnant lady writing stories on an angled keyboard balanced on her belly as she reclined in the chair was always kind of adorable.)
"I was one of the last remaining ones who worked with the Tops in TV News in Bangor, Maine. You know, Tim Throckmorton, Chris Ewing, George Hale, Jim Morris; those people who've just been standouts throughout the decades. And I had a chance to be a part of that. That's dwindling in the business these days, so I'm grateful for my chance to overlap with them."
She shared that there were many moments that she'll remember over her last 16 years.
"One of them was being on the phone with Steve McCausland who was the Public Information Officer for the Maine State Police at the time and verifying information about Ayla Reynolds being reported missing."
"I can remember, as I was typing notes and talking with him, I was shaking because that information was coming in and he was telling me that. Amazingly enough, the anniversary of her disappearance will be 10 years in December. And that's always kind of stuck with me because I just thought 'This is the news that changes people and lives.' And I was one of the first to hear it and share it with my colleagues."
Pegram also says one of the stories that had a lasting impact on her had to do with a court case that involved a young child named Alex who had suffered from Shaken Baby Syndrome.
"Those are very personal cases, and I actually got to work through it and found the family who was going to adopt Alex. Alex was not going to survive in the long run, and this family took him into their home and gave him did absolutely everything for him to make sure that even in his final days, he was loved and well cared for. They invited me into that, and to be able to tell the story of Alex, and one of the most precious moments was being able to go with Alex and his family to see a Red Sox game. Because Alex had enough recognition, that when he would hear baseball on TV and hear Big Papi play-he could hear his voice sometimes and recognize that. And so they called Alex 'Little Papi' and they worked with the Red Sox come down, and they let me be a part of that experience and share that experience. And Alex passed away not long after that and I was just so grateful to get to know them and be a part of his life and their lives for that brief time and to share that with other people."
I'm not surprised those are the memories that stick out for Cat, as we at WABI called her. Aside from being an incredible journalist and a class act, she's got an enormous heart and an amazing sense of compassion and kindness.
"When you think about it, we meet people in some of the most difficult, life-changing circumstances. And that they're willing to talk to you about those times...it's humbling."
She is someone whom, aside from being happy to call a friend, I could always trust to deliver the news in a professional and unbiased way. That's something she took very seriously.
"It's a hard job to get into, particularly these days, but if you keep the mission in mind, and my mission has always been to inform people, to educate people to give them the information they need to make decisions about their lives, or to inspire them or to make them laugh...I saw myself as the conduit of that information, and I always just tried to be true to that and not to share in cases where there are views or stances...I'm the conveyor of information and so my job is to convey it as exact as I can and let you make the decisions about your lives based on that."
In my few years getting to work with her, in every single instance, I saw Pegram tread delicately and with the utmost tact when it came to dealing with the people whose stories it was our job to tell because many of them were experiencing hardships of some sort. She approached everyone as she would hope her own family and friends would be approached during a difficult time; with the utmost respect.
Pegram says aside from the work itself, she will miss her colleagues.
"I'll miss the people that I work with because TV news is a hard job and the people that you work with become like part of your family. We've gone through a lot together and have always been there for one another and I'm just going to miss that."
As for what the future holds, Pegram will turn her sights to raising her twin "tween" girls, as she calls them.
She will also be helping her husband Jeff in his newest venture as a local restauranteur.
"He's a big picture guy and man, I'm all about the details and there are a lot of details when it comes to running a restaurant. The goal is not to clear tables and be behind the bar, it might happen every once in a while (not that I'd be behind the bar because I have no idea how to mix drinks) but more of the administrative work; dealing with the bills and ordering food or calling someone in when the freezer breaks or the internet's down again."
Looking back at the last 16 years, the impact she has left on eastern Maine, and the impact the community has had on her will remain with her always.
"I'm so grateful for the opportunity. Again, it's very humbling that people would let me share their stories and that other people would invite me into their homes to watch those stories. It's an incredible reciprocal relationship when it works like that. And I will miss that for sure. "