Goodbye and Good Luck to Gwen Thompkins

A fond farewell to Senior Editor Gwen Thompkins. She is leaving her current post to become NPR's new East Africa correspondent. She will be missed dearly by all at Weekend Edition Saturday.

SCOTT SIMON, Host:

I'm going to be a lot less funny after today. I'm also going to know a lot less about New Orleans music, Mardi Gras Krewes and classic movies. Our editor, Gwen Thompkins, is leaving to become NPR's correspondent in East Africa. She'll be based in Nairobi, which has its charms, but is a long way from Canal Street.

At least two-thirds of the funny things you've heard me say over the past 10 years were actually uttered by Gwen just a few seconds before, speaking into my headphones. I am not especially funny. I've just been privileged to be the ventriloquist's doll on Gwen's knee.

Gwen and I learned a long time ago that it's dangerous for us to lock eyes during some interviews. We might both burst out laughing, and Gwen's laugh is a force of nature, a bell-ringing guffaw that can shake walls and upend semi-trailers. If a meteor ever threatens to smack the Earth, I bet that Gwen's laugh could smash it to smithereens before it gets past Venus. Certainly her laugh has made our offices the most joyful area in this building.

Virtually every single moment of our show over the past 10 years bears the imprint of Gwen's intelligence, devotion, judgment and flair. Earlier this year this did a series of signature pieces from her hometown that artfully made personal the loss suffered by so many in Hurricane Katrina.

GWEN THOMPKINS: In my bedroom, I found an old Billie Holiday poster that I used to love to look at in college. It was on the floor next to a party dress that my mother used to look so pretty wearing. In the dampness, they were both dirty and spotted with mold, but it was easy to make out Lady Day.

There she was in black and white, standing at the microphone with a jar of hooch in her hand. She looked about as forlorn as the house, as my one and only copy of Catcher in the Rye, as my desk now swollen shut, which contained all the love letters of my youth.

SIMON: We like to think that we're not saying goodbye to Gwen so much as waving farewell as she pulls out of port on a world tour. We look forward to hearing the stories she will tell, along with the likes of Louis Armstrong and any member of the Marsalis clan.

Gwen Thompkins is a New Orleanian who makes the world more fun to live in.

(SOUNDBITE OF BILLIE HOLIDAY SONG)

BILLIE HOLIDAY: Wherever you are, our hearts are with you. Wherever you are, our prayers are with you too. All through the darkness, our faith is your guiding star...

SIMON: You're listening to WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News.

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