Hearts are heavy across New York City — in the NY1 newsroom, at my home, and beyond — with the notice that beloved newswoman Ruschell Boone passed away Sunday night after a brave battle with pancreatic cancer. She was only 48.
Ruschell is survived by her husband Todd and sons, Jackson, 12, and Carter, 9.
New Yorkers met the Jamaica native in 2002 when she joined NY1, first as a reporter in Queens and most recently anchoring “News All Day” — a tenure that forged an indelible connection with viewers.
I first became enchanted with Ruschell maybe 10 or so years ago, when she was interviewing people at the West Indian Day Parade. She was utterly professional, but she had a twinkle in her eye and a little boogie in her step. She looked like the most fun girl at the party.
Her dear friend and colleague, NY1 anchor Cheryl Wills told me that Ruschell’s time on Earth was a series of overcoming the odds, and that she deployed her trademark tenacity in the fight for her life.
“The whole theme of her life is that she would break through somehow,” Wills said. “She always made a way. Growing up in humble conditions in Kingston, she was always mind over matter. She said she had to get rid of her accent to become a broadcaster. Nothing was going to stop her.”
In June 2022, the effervescent Ruschell was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. When it was announced, prayers from every corner (and denomination and ethnicity) of New York were sent her way. She told me she was overwhelmed but touched by the outpouring of love and support: “People are praying in their churches, mosques and their Hindu temples and wishing me well.”
Against the odds, she beat back the insidious disease with rounds of chemo and the invasive Whipple surgery.
In November of 2022, I reached out to interview her about beating pancreatic cancer.
It was her story, but it was also so personal to me.
In 2009, I lost my father to pancreatic cancer. My family was blindsided by the diagnosis, and he was gone in four months. Subsequently we’ve lost more family members and friends to this horrific disease.
After being subjected to so much grief because of it, I was eager to speak to Ruschell — a rare success story. I was giddy for her, and I wanted to know how she caught it early. What were her symptoms? How can we learn from her story?
When we spoke, she was weary from the very intense Whipple surgery, a complicated process that essentially removes the head of the pancreas and rewires your digestive system in the process. But she was still upbeat. Strength spilled out of every pore.
She told me then, “This kind of feels like, a win for me is a win for a lot of people. I’m just so touched by that.”
That was the truth. At that moment, Ruschell had transcended her role as beloved newswoman. She had become a talisman — a living, breathing sign of hope for so many of us who had our worlds destroyed by this disease.
I took pride in her triumph.
After a few months, she returned to the air like a conquering hero and became a strong advocate in the fight against pancreatic cancer.
Ruschell wasted not a second.
Then it was the ending no one was expecting to write.
In late July, she took to social media to announce the cancer was back, and rang me that day to tell me herself. She sounded tired but not resigned. I hung up and burst into tears. If anyone deserved smooth sailing, it was her.
“I’m very touched by all who reached out to see how I’m doing. Unfortunately, my cancer has metastasized in my liver and I’m back in treatment. It’s rough, but the chemo is working,” she wrote. “Prayers have carried me through the difficult moments. Thank u for rooting for me.”
But there was simply no easier human to root for.
Ruschell’s positivity and lightness were infectious. Intelligent, funny and seemingly always dancing, her warmth radiated from the television screen.
She possessed the rare type of spirit you wish you could bottle. What Ruschell had, you couldn’t teach it. And you wanted to be around it.
Even as her body was ravaged by chemo, aware of her prognosis, Ruschell vowed to never surrender.
“Till my last breath,” Wills recalled her friend saying. “She did not go willingly.”
Now all of her friends and family will turn to Rushcell’s beautiful sons. Wills vowed to be a surrogate for the boys that her friend loved so much, and to instill their mother’s fierceness and adoration.
“My friend was a Leo mother till the end. She did not want to leave her sons or her husband. But especially her two boys, who need to go on without her. It’s devastating on so many levels,” Wills said.
Just this morning, I put on my to-do list “Send Ruschell flowers,” to let her know I was thinking of her.
Then the horrific news hit. Heartbreaking.
But her legacy as a fighter is not dimmed. In fact, she stared down an insidious monster and scored an underdog victory.
There’s no doubt that her indomitable spirit gave her extra time here, time to inspire us all. And even though she is gone, I still think, what could Ruschell teach us?
She taught us to listen to our bodies, to advocate for our health. She taught us to celebrate every W and summon strength when it feels like the reserves have dried up.
And she taught us to dance. Even in the worst of times.
As for Wills, the lesson came through her friend’s stubborn resolve to stay in battle. “The fighing spirit was with her until the end. That’s how we will always remember her. That will stay with me for a lifetime.”