It was an ordinary deadline day for me on March 8, until I received an email from my editor Pam that our beloved Shani McManus had lost her battle with lung cancer and died. Shani was a veteran reporter with a career spanning more than three decades in journalism. She began her career in 1969 writing for the East Side News in New York, but she was fondly known around South Florida as a top reporter for The Jewish Journal.
Shani interviewed Barack Obama, Joe Biden and John McCain in 2008. I remember seeing her photo with Biden after her interview and I could not wait to get her firsthand account of what it was like meeting him. “I ripped into him just like anybody else,” Shani laughed, with her signature, hearty Shani-cackle. “These guys are running for the top spots in America. I have to ask them the tough questions.”
Whether Shani was sitting down for a one-on-one interview with Biden, paying tribute to Leonard Nimoy or bringing awareness to important issues such as breast cancer and anti-semitism, Shani was always honest, informative and real. There was a lovable and at times, even enviable, authenticity to her. I have fond memories of Shani bopping around our now defunct Green Road newsroom in her blue Jewish Journal baseball cap. She would stand on the staircase outside the back of the office puffing cigarettes during our lunch break and spewing wisdom. I miss our talks about relationships, kids, politics and our careers. When I had my son, she told me how lucky I was to have him and how much she loved her own son. She was passionate about journalism and told stories in a way only she could tell them.
We had a terrible health scare not so long ago where Shani suffered a collapsed lung. We thought we had lost her then but she bounced back and continued working, despite the pleas of many urging her to slow down. That was just it. An effervescent spirit like Shani’s cannot be thwarted or extinguished. Shani did things Shani’s way. She lived life on her own terms. I will miss her beautiful smile, her contagious laugh and her no-nonsense personality. Fly free now, my feisty friend. A light will forever be dimmed in our newsroom since your passing, but I know you are now the brightest star shining over us from heaven.