By Robert Nolin
( Oct 30) – Unflagging in her enthusiasm and energy, Kathy Pellegrino was a force in South Florida’s journalism community, serving as a reporter, editor, lawyer and mentor to a legion of young interns.
Miss Pellegrino, a decades-long Sun Sentinel employee, died of cancer at her sister’s home Tuesday morning. She was 57.
“Her legacy lives on through the employees and the interns and anybody that she was associated with,” said former editor Earl Maucker, who supervised Miss Pellegrino for more than 20 years.
Born in New York, the oldest of five siblings, Miss Pellegrino in 1971 moved with her family to South Florida. Newspapering was an early love, and she worked on the paper at St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale. She put herself through college and earned a journalism degree from the University of Florida, where she also worked on the school paper. She joined the Sun Sentinel in 1978, where she remained until illness forced her to stop working about a year ago.
“She loved working for the Sun Sentinel,” said her sister, Janet Ohlrich of Davie. “That was where she belonged.”
Miss Pellegrino served as an assistant city editor, and in the mid-’90s earned a law degree from Nova Southeastern University while working full time. She then attained a special position as the paper’s legal adviser and recruitment editor. Her legal acumen and knowledge of public records law guided many stories and projects.
“She was always a stickler for accuracy, making sure reporters got their facts straight,” said veteran Sun Sentinel reporter Ken Kaye.
“This was one smart woman,” said longtime staffer Gary Stein.
As a recruiter, Miss Pellegrino was a familiar figure at journalism conferences across the country. A champion of minority reporters, she was responsible for introducing fresh, eager faces into South Florida newsrooms. “She was very dedicated and devoted to the young people, to make sure they had the best career possible,” Maucker said.
She also handled the paper’s intern program, and often spent off-hours and weekends meeting with prospective interns. “She was really very dedicated and really cared about journalism and the students,” said Chris Delboni, a Florida International University professor who worked with Miss Pellegrino.
Colleagues recalled Miss Pellegrino’s dogged determination — along with her ability to wisecrack during sometimes tense meetings. Her sister said a sense of humor was second nature to Miss Pellegrino: she was voted the wittiest in her high school.
Outside work, Miss Pellegrino, a vegetarian, played tennis and ran marathons — her first at age 50. She was also involved in charity work, serving on the board of SOS Children’s Village and working with Food for the Poor. “She always found time to help those in need,” said her sister.
“She was the best of all of us,” said Frank Pellegrino, the youngest of Miss Pellegrino’s siblings.
Miss Pellegrino was a devout congregant at St. David Catholic Church in Davie, where she aspired to attend Mass daily, helped serve communion and belonged to the women’s club and a prayer group.
“She actively lived her faith,” said fellow parishioner Barbara Orlando, of Plantation. “She personally touched a lot of lives in a very quiet way.”
Wayward cats also benefited from Miss Pellegrino’s charity. She adopted two strays, naming them after the locale in which they were found. There was I-595, for obvious reasons, and Bernadette, who was found behind St. Bernadette’s Catholic Church in Hollywood.
Besides her brother and sister, Miss Pellegrino is survived by her mother, Florence, of Davie; two other brothers, James of Miami Lakes, and Thomas of Plantation; a niece and three nephews.
A viewing will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday at T.M. Ralph Funeral Homes, 371 NW 136th Ave., Plantation. A Mass will be celebrated Friday at St. David Catholic Church, 3900 S. University Drive, Davie, followed by internment at Queen of Heaven Cemetery, 1500 S. State Road 7, North Lauderdale.
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