Religion Unplugged

Mourning two amazing people and journalists: Rachel Zoll and Amy Raymond

By Bobby Ross Jr. | Religion Unplugged

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In 31 years of full-time journalism, I’ve been blessed to work with some incredible people.

The world lost two of the best this past week.

Rachel Zoll was one of The Associated Press’ two New York-based national religion writers — along with Richard Ostling — when I joined AP’s Nashville, Tennessee, bureau in 2002.

She was always so kind and supportive of me and my work, as she was with countless others.

I last saw her at the 2017 Religion News Association annual meeting in Nashville. I had left AP more than a decade earlier, so I was surprised when she asked how my wife, Tamie, was doing. I had no idea she knew Tamie was battling autoimmune disease. But she did.

Early in 2018, Zoll was diagnosed with brain cancer. She died Friday in Amherst, Mass., at 55.

Her AP colleague David Crary, who called Zoll his “best friend at work,” wrote a truly touching obituary.

Zoll and Ostling were AP’s national religion dream team for five years until his retirement in 2006.

Ostling enjoyed a legendary career with Time magazine before going to work at AP. But he told Zoll during her illness that “on a day-to-day basis our work together was the highlight” of his time in journalism.

Amy Raymond and I both got our start working on The Talon campus newspaper at Oklahoma Christian University. I was excited when she joined The Oklahoman staff in 1997, a few years after me.

Although Raymond and I hadn’t worked together in nearly two decades, we stayed in touch via Facebook. We occasionally chatted about religious and political issues.

On a Zoom discussion Monday night, current and former colleagues kept saying — through tears — how smart and kind she was. That is the absolute truth.

“Amy started as a staff writer but her true passion became apparent as she made her way up the ladder as a copy editor, page designer, and then as night news editor,” my longtime friend and former Oklahoma Christian classmate Steve Lackmeyer wrote in The Oklahoman this week.

She died “very suddenly after a medical emergency” Sunday. She was 45.

Lackmeyer’s tribute to his friend and colleague of 25 years is exceptional.

My thoughts and prayers are with everyone mourning these two amazing women, especially Rachel’s sister Cheryl Zoll and Amy’s husband, Ken Raymond.

Read the full column.

This column appears in the online magazine Religion Unplugged.

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