BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Editor’s note: WAFB anchor Donna Britt passed away Thursday morning after a long battle with Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS). In this piece, longtime WAFB News Director Robb Hays shares his memories of Donna.
Oh, I have so many great memories of my dear friend Donna. They are memories that I will always cherish.
Donna taught me so much about journalism over the years. She was the ‘mother’ of our newsroom and she pushed us to be fair, accurate and compassionate. She loved life. She loved her kids. She loved her husband. She loved her career. And, she loved LSU.
Early in 2018, Donna called me over to her desk. She was in a wheelchair by this point.
“I have GOT to tell you this story,” a beaming Donna told me. “I was leaving an event at L’Auberge Casino and I was in the valet area waiting on my car,” she said. “Then I looked up and saw him across the way. It was Coach O! He walked over to me and took my hand. I looked up at him and said ‘you’re a star,’ she told me. “Then, he kissed my hand and said, ‘no sweetheart, YOU are the star!” She was so excited about that encounter with her beloved coach of the Tigers.
Whether it was Coach O or just about anyone you ask on the streets of Baton Rouge, Donna Britt held a special place in their hearts. That included me – a guy who grew up watching Donna at my parents’ home in Gonzales, LA.
I first met Donna 31 years ago when I arrived at the station as a news intern while a student at LSU. She often assigned me and other interns to write a story for the 10pm news. Whichever intern wrote the best version of the story got to have it air in the newscast that night. With Donna’s help, I left WAFB a stronger writer and used that experience to help me with my first job as a reporter at KPLC-TV in Lake Charles.
When I returned to WAFB in 2005, Donna welcomed me with open arms. And that is when our friendship really started to blossom. We shared so many laughs over the years.
Donna was also our resident in-house English teacher. I’m sure this very story has a few grammatical errors that she will catch. But, she’ll forgive me.
I never heard Donna say a single curse word. Never. In a fast-paced newsroom, that’s almost unheard of. The daughter of a preacher, she was a good Christian woman.
And, oh man, how she loved her family. Her two children, Annie and Louis, are some of the best traveled kids you’ll ever met. She and her husband Mark took their children on so many great vacations over the years, both around the United States and abroad. I got to visit with Louis briefly this morning. I told him what he already knew - how his mom’s face lit up with pride anytime she talked about him or his sister.
My sweet chihuahua, Lucky Dawg, recently passed away. She was just one month shy of turning 20 years old. I often brought Lucky to work with me and Donna just loved her. Our former co-worker, Monica Champagne, and I went to visit Donna at her home in early 2020. By this time, the awful disease had robbed much of Donna’s beautiful voice. Donna knew we were coming for a visit that day as we had called her husband to give him a heads up. That morning, hours before we were to arrive, Donna used her eyeball to type on her special little computer she had. She would use her eye to point to a letter. Letter by letter, she would form words. Whatever she “typed” with her eye would later come out of the speaker in her own voice.
Once we arrived, Donna used her eye to press “play” and out came this: “Monica, how are your beautiful children? I hope you brought pictures.” Monica then proceeded to flip through her phone and show Donna the latest photos of her two kids. Then Donna turned to me and pressed “play” again. “How is Lucky Dawg,” she asked. I later marveled at just how long it must have taken her to use her eye to type each and every one of those letters. She wanted our visit to be special. It surely was.
Donna was a true treasure. She volunteered for so many things and gave so much back to the community she loved so dearly.
My sweet friend, I’m so glad you are no longer suffering. Thank you for your mentoring, your love and your friendship. I know we will see each other again one day. Please give my sweet Lucky a kiss from me.
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