Mortality Redux – Jenny Ames

We who are connected to ABC News have all suffered a grievous loss. Those of us who knew, worked with and loved Jenny Ames certainly have. Those inside and outside ABC who did not know Jenny, or who are just learning about her now, have lost as well. Jenny has left an unparalleled legacy. She was our defender, protector, logistician, producer, coordinator, manager and den mother. She was very, very good at whatever job she tackled.

When I first arrived in Johannesburg in August of 1985 to begin a stint as ABC’s South Africa Correspondent and Bureau Chief, I phoned the bureau from Jan Smuts airport to inform them I was in-country and headed to a hotel for a little shut-eye after the 15 hour flight from Frankfurt. It seemed I had no sooner closed my eyes when the phone rang. It was Jenny on the other end of the line. She told me an important anti-apartheid story was breaking and that World News Tonight had called wanting us to file for that night’s broadcast. I asked her for directions to the bureau, but she told me to never mind. She had already dispatched someone to pick me up. He was on his way.

When I arrived at the bureau, I found it in full fledged “breaking story” mode. Jenny had already arranged for a free-lance editor who was busily logging video that had come in. She had the bureau’s film crew standing by under the correct assumption that I would need to record a stand-up to camera. She also had already booked satellite time through South Africa’s SABC-TV. When I walked in, she was on the phone getting details of the story from her “sources.” Together with Jenny and under her guidance this new South African Correspondent, on the ground in unfamiliar territory for barely a few hours, was able to file the first of what would become 45 straight nights on WNT. This would have been virtually impossible without Jenny Ames.

Jenny was always the eye in journalistic storms. Alway calm. Always clear-headed. When we were pressured by the South African government’s draconian foreign media laws, she was fierce in her defense of a free press. Her contacts both inside and outside the circles of government were legendary.

Jenny was a great believer in astrology. When our first granddaughter, Alexandra, was born nine years ago, Jenny prepared for her an exhaustive and detailed astrological profile, which predicted how her personality traits would develop. Today, that report fits Alex to a “T.”

Jenny was always supremely gracious. Many years after I had left South Africa, my wife and I returned for a visit. Our first order of business was to have dinner with Jenny, her husband, Barry and some other friends. It was a marvelous evening. It was the last time I saw Jenny Ames. I will miss her tremendously.

Published by J. Paul Hickey

Author, Bass Player, Retired National Correspondent for ABC News - 32 years with the network - Retired in 2012. Narrates Audiobooks. Volunteer at Fort Sumter National Park. Holder of two university Honorary Doctorate Degrees, Distinguished Eagle Scout, former SCUBA diver.

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