It is hard to believe that just over 10 years ago my mother, Sherry Keene-Osborn, passed away. She was 54 years old when she died, and was a contributing editor at The Colorado Statesman. She was known to many as a professional journalist with the utmost integrity and professionalism. What I want to make sure people remember, however, is her personal side.
First, her professional life. She covered all of the big stories in Denver, mostly working for Newsweek as a stringer. The Pope’s Visit, Oklahoma City Bombing trials, Columbine, Y2K, and yes, Jon Benét. She was sometimes criticized for having access to information no other journalist had when it came to the latter. And at the end of the day, she arrived at her own educated opinion regarding the crime.
For those who didn’t know my mom, she wrote for and edited the Colorado Daily while attending CU in the mid-to-late 60s. After I was born, she worked for Cervi’s Journal, which was later called the Rocky Mountain Business Journal, and now the Denver Business Journal, and became the paper’s editor. She then opened her own public relations consulting business with my step-dad, Mike Osborn (now known as Mike Kindig). She also raised my stepbrother and stepsister, Tom Osborn and Jennifer (Osborn) Schmidt. She was as much a mother to them as she was to me. And later, as her health began to fail, she worked as a Denver stringer for Newsweek. What most people didn’t know was how sick she was, and how much of her work she did simply by using the phone, often times not leaving her bed. Her spirit and dedication resulted in good journalism even though she rarely felt well.
She counted many people as good friends. She was very close to Fr. “Woody” Woodrich, and was devastated when he died. She worked closely with him on the visit of Mother Teresa of Calcutta to Estes Park, and the fundraising for the Samaritan Shelter in downtown Denver, as well as a number of Woody’s other projects. She also had friendships and business relationships with notable Coloradans, including ex-Mayors Federico Peña and Wellington Webb. My mom also worked to mentor other journalists, which had a long term positive effect on publications throughout the country as her former employees took what they learned and went to work for other newspapers.
A devoted Catholic, I believe one of the highlights of her personal and professional life was when she got to meet Mother Teresa. Mother Teresa gave my mom medals that she personally blessed, telling my mom the Pope would be mad at her for blessing them. To this day I carry mine with me everywhere I go.
She literally would give the coat off her back to someone she didn’t know, if they obviously needed the coat more than she did. She would continually sacrifice her happiness and well being, in order to help others. At her memorial service, many stood around and shared stories about her help, generosity and professional assistance — many stories her family had never before heard since she kept so much private. She was the repository of thousands of secrets, personal and professional, and she kept peoples’ confidence.
She also knew just the right time to call someone to check in. She knew who was in trouble, and in need of help, and she would pull every string she could to solve her friends’ and family’s problems. This is how I hope she is remembered.
There were many people who, at various times, helped her, including the legendary businessman Bill Daniels and especially Mike Stratton, who has helped my family in so many ways. I can never thank him enough. And I’m afraid to attempt to name all of her friends for fear of forgetting someone important.
And yes, she was a good friend to The Colorado Statesman. She loved politics as much as she loved journalism. But no matter what she was working on, she loved helping people. She now has three grandchildren that she never got to meet, but who look to her as a shining example. One thing is for certain — her spirit will live on through those who knew her, and through her loving grandchildren that know her simply as Grandma Sherry.
Jeff Dorschner is the public affairs specialist and spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Denver. Prior to that job he worked for a public relations firm, a member of Congress, a Governor, and a Denver City Councilwoman, as well as working on and at times managing numerous political campaigns. He can be reached at email@example.com.