For 31 years at KIRO 7, the Spirit of the Northwest was Chris Legeros.
“I realized that if I listened to the advice of my co-workers, the end result was invariably better,” he once said. “If I treated the people I interviewed with dignity and respect, they generally responded in a positive way.”
Chris, who died Friday at age 62, did that daily — not just with the people he interviewed, but with his friends and colleagues.
When new reporters arrived, Chris helped explain what made the Northwest so special, and showed ways they could succeed. As technology changed, with Twitter and two stories a day becoming standard, Chris adapted with grace.
Friends who worked with Chris for decades never heard him speak badly of someone — even when doing so would have been understandable.
That’s what made his note last August so heartbreaking.
“I won’t bury the lead,” he wrote. “I’ve got cancer.”
His oncologist explained the pancreatic cancer was treatable, but not curable. The best he could do was buy time with treatment and be thankful for the weeks and months he had.
And he was.
Messages poured in by the dozens on Facebook. People he reported about three decades earlier contacted Chris to say they were praying for him. Friends formed Team Legeros for the Pancreatic Cancer Walk and wore purple Team Legeros wristbands as his life was extended with chemotherapy.
“In some ways this disease has been a blessing because it has shown me how many people love me and it has given me time to say I love them back,” Chris said earlier this year.
As a kid in Edina, Minnesota, Chris had a love for animals and later enrolled in pre-veterinary school at the University of Minnesota. But then Watergate came along and the news business seemed fascinating. Chris wanted the chance to tell great stories.
“That, and I couldn’t get fired up about organic chemistry,” he said.
The oldest of four children in a proud Greek family, Chris landed an internship at WTCN TV and WWTC radio before his 1974 graduation. He then moved to KCMT-TV, a station serving west-central Minnesota, and battled TV equipment that sometimes failed in the 20-below-zero temperatures.
Chris was there for two years before moving to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where he reported and anchored as Chris George for KGAN-TV. It also was in Cedar Rapids where he met the former Julie Dowd, who was attending nursing school. They were married in 1981 at St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church.
Less than two years later, a friend told him about a reporting job at KIRO 7 in Seattle, a place he and Julie had never been. In January 1983, he called with the good news: He’d been offered a job and could start the next month.
In his 31 years reporting at KIRO, Chis received some of the highest broadcasting honors, including awards from The Associated Press, the Society of Professional Journalists, Best of the West and the Washington Education Association. He also won three Emmy awards and was an honorary member of the Army Reserve’s 50th General Hospital unit after reporting on it during the Persian Gulf War.
But the moments he loved most came with Julie and their daughters, Elena and Anna.
One of his favorite news broadcasts was the one where Elena joined him on Take Your Daughter to Work Day. In 2013, he walked Anna down the aisle at her wedding to Alex Fleet. After his diagnosis, Chris had relatives from across the country come to visit.
When Chris was inducted into the Silver Circle by the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences earlier this year, his family was among the 300-plus crowd that gave him a standing ovation.
“After my diagnosis of pancreatic cancer last August, one of my daughters asked me if I was ‘scared’ and ‘afraid’ to die,” Chris wrote in March. “I kind of surprised myself with how quickly I answered ‘no.’
“One of my earliest memories of going to church was attending kindergarten Sunday school at St. Mary’s Greek Orthodox Church in Minneapolis. We sang ‘Jesus Loves Me’ over and over again in English and Greek.
“I believed the words then as I do now.”
Whenever St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church needed someone to emcee an event, Chis was there. Whenever they needed an auctioneer, Chris volunteered. He served espresso at the annual Greek festival, and often shared the fun of the event on KIRO 7 Eyewitness News.
“The world would be such a better place if we had more Chris Legeroses,” Father Photios Dumont said.
The KIRO 7 newsroom was better whenever Chris was there, too.
There was the Sunday when the 11 p.m. anchor couldn’t make it, so Chris, who was in the field covering a story, got the call to fill in at 10 p.m.
“He said ‘OMG, OMG, OMG,’ ” producer Kyla Grace said, fondly recalling the often-used Legeros line.
“And then he didn’t miss that night — didn’t stumble over a single script.”
When anchor Monique Ming Laven interviewed at KIRO in 2006, she asked the news director who was the best storyteller. He pointed to Chris.
“Chris asked me about me and asked me about my family,” Monique recalled. “He said one of the difficulties is the demand of the news business and being away from your family. But he said we’re lucky that here in this building we have another family.”
Even on one of his most difficult days, when Chris learned he had pancreatic cancer, his thoughts were with his friends at KIRO 7.
“I’m sorry if I ended your day with a ‘downer,’ ” he wrote in a staff-wide email. “I apologize to those who will see their shifts change to cover my absence. My hope is that you will all remember me in your thoughts and prayers.
“May the Spirit of the Northwest be with you always.”