Across New York City – on the NY1 newsroom, at my home and beyond – it is heartbreaking to hear that beloved news anchor 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 Jamaican native in 2002 when she joined NY1, first as a reporter in Queens and most recently as the anchor of News All Day — a tenure that forged an indelible bond with viewers.
I was enchanted by it for the first time Ruschell about ten years ago while interviewing people at the West Indian Day Parade. She was totally professional but had a twinkle in her eyes and a little boogie in her steps. She seemed to be the funniest girl at the party.
Her dear friend and colleague, NY1 presenter Cheryl Wills, told me that Ruschell’s time on Earth was a series of overcoming all odds and using her trademark tenacity in the fight for her life.
“The whole theme of her life is that she was going to break through somehow,” Wills said. “She always found a way. Growing up in modest circumstances in Kingston, she had always valued the subject matter. She said she needed to get rid of her accent to become a broadcaster. Nothing could stop her.”
In June 2022, the bubbly Ruschell was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. When it was announced, prayers were being sent to her from every corner (and every denomination and ethnic group) of New York. She told me she was overwhelmed but also touched by the outpouring of love and support: “People are praying in their churches, mosques and Hindu temples and wishing me well.”
Against all odds, she managed to reverse the insidious disease with chemotherapy and the invasive Whipple operation.
In November 2022, I contacted her to conduct an interview about fighting 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 completely surprised by the diagnosis and he was gone after four months. As a result, we lost more family members and friends to this terrible disease.
After suffering so much heartache over this, I was dying to speak to Ruschell – a rare success story. I was looking forward to her and wanted to know how she recognized it early. What were your symptoms? How can we learn from their story?
As we spoke, she was exhausted from the very intense Whipple operation, a complicated procedure that essentially removes the head of the pancreas while rewiring your digestive system in the process. But she was still optimistic. Power flowed from every pore.
She said to me at the time, “It feels like a win for me is a win for a lot of people.” It just touches me so much.”
That was the truth. At that moment, Ruschell had transcended her role as the beloved news editor. She had become a talisman – a living, breathing beacon of hope for so many of us whose world was being shattered by this disease.
I was proud of their triumph.
After a few months, she returned to the air like a victorious heroine and became a strong advocate for the fight against pancreatic cancer.
Ruschell didn’t waste a second.
Then it was the end that no one expected.
At the end of July she took to social media to announce that the cancer had returned and called me that day to tell myself. She sounded tired but not resigned. I hung up and burst into tears. If anyone deserves a smooth process, it’s her.
“I am very touched by everyone who has reached out to see how I am doing. Unfortunately my cancer has metastasized to my liver and I am back in treatment. It’s tough but the chemo is working,” she wrote. “Prayers carried me through the difficult moments. Thank you for supporting me.”
But there just wasn’t a simpler person to get excited about.
Ruschell’s positivity and ease were contagious. Intelligent, funny and seemingly always dancing, her warmth radiated from the TV screen.
She owned the rare kind of liquor one could wish to bottle. You couldn’t teach what Ruschell had. And you wanted to be there.
Even as her body was damaged by chemotherapy, Ruschell vowed to be aware of her prognosis and never give up.
“Until my last breath,” Wills recalled when her friend said. “She didn’t leave voluntarily.”
Now all of her friends and family will be turning to Rushcell’s beautiful sons. Wills vowed to be a surrogate for the boys her friend loved so dearly, instilling the wildness and adoration in their mother.
“My girlfriend was a Leo mother to the end. She did not want to leave her sons or her husband. Above all, her two boys, who have to do without her. “It’s devastating on so many levels,” Wills said.
Just this morning I put “send flowers to Ruschell” on my to-do list to let her know I’m thinking of her.
Then came the terrible news. heartbreaking.
But that doesn’t tarnish her legacy as a fighter. In fact, she took down an insidious monster and won an underdog victory.
There is no doubt that her indomitable spirit bought her extra time here, time to inspire us all. And even though she’s gone, I still think: what could Ruschell teach us?
She taught us to listen to our bodies and take care of our health. She taught us to celebrate every W and gather strength when it feels like our reserves have run dry.
And she taught us to dance. Even in the worst of times.
As for Wills, the lesson came from her friend’s dogged determination to stay in the fight. “The fighting spirit was with her until the end. This is how we will always remember them. I will remember that for the rest of my life.”