She was a warm, soft blanket in the darkness before daybreak, the first flicker of the kitchen lights during a raging morning snowstorm, the first voice of the day as you stumbled around trying to get both eyes to open.
And if morning TV anchor Georgiann Lymberopoulos was the first thing you saw every morning — and for tens of thousands in and around our village, she was — well, there were lousier ways to start your day.
When the longtime early — very early — morning anchor of KOAA-TV's News First 5 broadcast signed off and headed for a private life with her family a month ago, you knew the feeling was mutual.
"We've shared a lot of mornings over coffee together, haven't we?" she said to her viewers at the end of her last broadcast. And then her eyes filled with tears, and her voice snagged on the memories.
Lymberopoulos left because of her twins, a year old now and growing fast. She left because being around them all the time had vaulted way ahead of the news, weather and sports. She left because if you're doing it right, kids are your news, weather and sports.
Not that the deer in the road on that lousy morning in August didn't have something to do with it. The headlights cut through the 2:30 a.m. darkness as she headed for the KOAA studio in Pueblo. It was the first week of the new 4:30 a.m. broadcast when the four deer appeared. She couldn't stop. Two of the animals died.
"I was just devastated," the new mom says. "It was the first week at the earlier time, and I thought I'd be able to adjust and take care of my twins and then I hit the deer and I thought, 'What am I doing? Why am I out driving at this hour?'
"I knew that I couldn't do it anymore."
Lymberopoulos grew up in Boulder and headed for Texas Christian University with thoughts of a career in medicine. But an adviser suggested a class in broadcast journalism.
"I got the bug," she says.
Four years later, with a degree, she took her first TV job in Ada, Okla., a 15,000-population village known for its 1909 vigilante hanging of the suspected killer of a local rancher.
From that station she moved to Sherman, Texas, where her TV station boss suggested she make a change from Lymberpol ... Lympoulber ... uh, Georgiann JACKSON had a nice ring to it, he reckoned. He asked her to change her name.
"My dad was born in Greece," she says. "He told me, 'You need to be proud of who you are.' So I'm 23, knees shaking, and I told the boss I wanted to be his news anchor, but I'd be keeping my own name. There was a long pause and then he just said, 'OK.' And it's never come up again."
"My name fits on the TV screen," she says.
In 1994, she came back to Colorado. She worked on all of KOAA's news broadcasts but quickly found her place with the early morning crowd. It was, well, different.
"For the 5 a.m. shows I'd get up at 2:15 and shower and eat and be out the door at 3:15," she says. "When I was pregnant, my doctor asked if I felt tired and nauseated and I said yes, but that I'd felt that way for 16 years.
"I never got used to it. When the twins came, I stayed up all day and got to sleep at 10 or 10:30 at night. I was living on three hours of sleep a day."
Somehow, she stayed sane. And funny. As I sat recently with her 7-year-old basset hound Willow on a sofa at the home she shares with her schoolteacher/coach husband, Mark, she walked by, scratched the dog's head and said, "You little stinker." Then she stopped, looked at me and said, "I mean Willow."
And when the 17-year-run ended with that final broadcast Dec. 16, it was so very hard.
"The ultimate compliment," she said to her viewers that morning, "has been when you've come up to me on the street, in a restaurant or the grocery store and said you feel like you know me.
"I am forever grateful."
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