MINNEAPOLIS -- Darcy Pohland, a veteran WCCO-TV reporter, died in her sleep Friday morning at the age of 48. Her death sent waves of shock and sadness through the Twin Cities television station she'd been part of since 1983.
Colleagues said Pohland hadn't been feeling well earlier in the week, and even fainted briefly at the station on Monday. But she continued to work, delivering memorable stories until finally taking a sick day on Thursday.
Reporters, producers and photojournalists at the Twin Cities CBS afflilate worked through their tears Friday to create moving on-air tributes to their fallen colleague. The station's news director, Scott Libin, said the hard charging journalist had been a bright, energetic presence in the newsroom.
"She was just a force of nature," Libin told KARE, "She had no tolerance for excuses. She had no tolerance for pity or complaints. She was just all about going out and getting it done."
Co-workers said they'd urged Pohland to see a doctor, but she assured them her condition wasn't serious. A friend and co-worker visited her at her Minneapolis home Thursday night before she went to bed. She was unresponsive when her personal care attendant checked on her Friday.
Pohland, a Mendota Heights native, broke her neck in the summer of 1983 when she dove into a swimming pool in Washington D.C. The devastating injuries left her paralyzed below the waist and with limited use of her arms and hands.
At the time of the accident she was attending George Washington University and working as an intern for reporter Skip Loescher at WCCO's Washington Bureau. In 1986, after she finished college at the University of Minnesota, Pohland rejoined WCCO as an assignment desk dispatcher.
Long-time photojournalist Brad Earley, who regularly partnered with Pohland on stories, recalled the day in 1994 when she made the leap to reporting on camera.
"She finished her report. There's a split second of silence and then the entire newsroom erupted," Earley said, "It was like she'd just sunk the game-winning basket. Everyone was happy for her that she was on her way."
Her wheelchair became another tool of the reporting trade for Pohland, who managed to compensate for the logistical complications of navigating scenes of breaking news stories, where ramps and elevators aren't always available.
"We covered the Saint Peter tornado together in 1998, and there was debris everywhere," Earley remarked, "And she made her way around just fine. The only thing that could stop Darcy and her wheelchair was six inches of snow."
The action figures, pennants and photographs on Pohland's desk are a testament to her passion for local sports, especially the Minnesota Vikings and the Golden Gophers. And, in fact, it was a sports figure who transformed the way Pohland thought of her future.
The late Karl Kassulke, a one-time Vikings safety who was paralyzed in a motorcycle accident, gave Pohland some frank advice during her rehabilitation days.
"She told me it was Karl Kassulke who got her head right, and told her, 'Quit feeling sorry for yourself. This is how you're going to spend the rest of your life and you've got to start working at it now'."
Earley traveled with Pohland on her one big road trip in her career at WCCO. It was a journey to North Carolina in 2002 to cover the Gopher Women's NCAA tournament run.
"We rented a handicap van, and brought her care attendant on the trip with us, and went off to cover this freshman sensation named Lindsay Whalen," Earley said.
"And by the time we left Darcy was friends with the family, the team, the alumni and the band!"
Pohland's mother died in early February, after an extended illness. The loss of her mother took an emotional toll on the the intrepid reporter, but she gave a stirring speech at the Valentine's Day memorial service.
Carol Brant, one of Pohland's neighbors at her high rise condominium complex remembered the reporter rolled into the elevator with a cast on her leg.
"She had broke her leg at work when a door closed on it," Brant said, "She didn't seem to let it bother her at all. She laughed, and said, 'Just another inconvenience.' That's how she was."
(Copyright 2010 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)