Amid cheers, tears and even the sound of mariachi horns, WFAA/Channel 8 anchor Gloria Campos bid farewell to viewers Friday night after nearly 30 years with the station.
“I’m truly humbled by your outpouring of well-wishes; I feel that saying, ‘Thank you,’ 1,000 times is still not adequate,” Campos said at the end of the 10 p.m. newscast, before a studio audience of about 30. A crowd that had gathered outside WFAA’s Victory Park studios spontaneously began shouting “Gloria!” loud enough that it could be heard on the air.
“It really doesn’t seem that long ago that I walked in the doors of WFAA-TV in 1984 to be a general assignments reporter and public affairs program host,” Campos said. “This was my dream job. All I ever wanted to be was a TV news reporter in North Texas. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d be anchoring the news in Dallas-Fort Worth — me, a small-town girl from Harlingen, Texas.”
Campos, the first featured Hispanic anchor in the Dallas-Fort Worth market, praised many co-workers, including her on-air partners, co-anchor John McCaa, meteorologist Pete Delkus and sports anchor Dale Hansen. She also took time to thank the behind-the-scenes producers, directors and floor crew, as well as colleagues in non-news divisions at WFAA.
While Campos spoke, McCaa stood off-camera by the anchor desk, looking emotional; Hansen and Delkus watched on a monitor near the studio’s weather center, Delkus appearing to wipe away a tear or two. Campos began to choke up at the end of her remarks but kept her composure.
The farewell capped a long day for Campos, who had been up since 5 a.m., did a phone interview with The Mark Davis Show on KSKY/660 AM The Answer, appeared with McCaa on Channel 8’s Good Morning Texas, had a going-away lunch with female colleagues, appeared on the 4 p.m. newscast and hung around to watch stories about her career during the 5 p.m. newscast.
There was a little breathing room after the appearance on Good Morning Texas, much of it spent saying thanks and goodbye.
“I went back to the station, started whittling away at the phone lists, the cards, the emails, the texts,” Campos said during a break. “And every time I check Twitter, it’s just blowing up. I get tons of new messages, and I cannot keep up.”
After a dinner break with her husband, Lance Brown, son Tony and a family friend at Dallas’ buzz restaurant CBD Provisions, she returned to the station around 7:30 p.m. to begin preparing for her final newscast. Much of the time she was businesslike, honing her farewell remarks, studying the newscast script and answering emails as visitors began streaming into the studio, which is usually quiet for more than two hours after the end of the 6 p.m. newscast.
Campos interrupted her work to greet guests or to accept flowers or gifts from fans outside on AT&T Plaza, including a folder full of handmade goodbye cards from a Farmers Branch elementary school class. And she did her best to avoid finding out about any of the surprises her co-workers had in store.
Those included a visit from Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, who presented Campos with an honorary proclamation, and video messages from her parents and from her other son, Greg. But the biggest surprise of all was when WFAA’s Cynthia Izaguirre, who will begin co-anchoring the 5 and 10 p.m. newscasts with McCaa on Monday, walked in bearing a large tres leches cake inscribed “Adios, Gloria” from Dallas restaurant Javier’s Gourmet Mexicano, accompanied by restaurateur Javier Gutierrez and by Mariachi de Oro, a band that serenaded Campos for several minutes.
That was just one of many surprises WFAA planned for Campos during her final week, which also included an on-air drop-in visit from former Texas Ranger Michael Young. But the surprise that affected Campos and viewers most came from someone less famous: Ke’onte Cook, a 14-year-old boy whom Campos helped find an adoptive family with two of her “Wednesday’s Child” segments. He came into the studio Wednesday night in a surprise arranged by Izaguirre, who did a report on Campos’ persistent efforts to help Cook find a home. The report went viral and led to a feature Thursday on ABC’s World News With Diane Sawyer .
“They’ve been wonderful,” Campos said of all the surprise tributes. “I can go in there and look at anybody’s script, and normally I would, so I’d know the background in case a story craters or something else happens. But I purposely have not known [this week].”
Producers also removed certain pages from Campos’ script, and the newscast rundown had sections that just said “surprise guest.”
On Friday, the 4 p.m. newscast was anchored by Marie Saavedra, who talked with Campos about her favorite story during her 30-year WFAA tenure: a report about a marriage by proxy, in which a friend stood in for an Air Force reservist who was serving in the Persian Gulf War. The reservist, Kelly Velder, is now an Arlington police officer (and a master sergeant in the Reserve). He joined Campos for the interview.
After the 10 p.m. newscast, Campos stuck around to greet well-wishers in the studio, including WFAA co-workers Rebecca Lopez and Brett Shipp and McCaa’s wife, Nora, as well as the crowd outside on AT&T Plaza. She declined to have a slice of the cake, saying, “I’ve had so much cake this week,” and there was evidence of that in the green-room refrigerator, which was stuffed with two large cakes reserved for her.
Campos said she still has to finishing cleaning out her desk and answering emails, but the new era at the station begins Monday. Izaguirre will be teamed with McCaa, who has been at the station as long as Campos and has worked with Campos as a co-anchor on various newscasts for some 25 years.
“I know the team will work hard to make sure that Cynthia Izaguirre feels right at home,” Campos said at the close of her farewell remarks. “I know you at home will accept her, too. And now, for the final time, thank you and good night. I’m Gloria Campos, Channel 8 News.”