Tuesday, June 25, 2002

Camilla Warrick, gifted writer, dead at 47

Columnist, reporter understood emotional impact of language

By David Wells, dwells@enquirer.com
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        TERRACE PARK — Camilla Warrick selected her words the way a careful shopper picks out fruit at the market. She turned each one over searching for hidden soft spots or blemishes before putting it down in a sentence.

Camilla Warrick
        The former columnist and reporter for the Enquirer and the Cincinnati Post had a talent for conveying emotion on a printed page.

        “She understood the human predicaments in life and brought grace to them,” said Hal Porter, pastor emeritus of Mount Auburn Presbyterian Church and a close friend. “She used to tell me that the peace of understanding is understanding,” he said.

        One of the “predicaments” she came to understand was breast cancer, which she battled for six years. Ms. Warrick, 47, died of the disease Monday morning, at the Terrace Park home she shared with her husband, Paul Gibby, and sons Owen, 16, and Noah, 13.

        “She had a strong voice and a free spirit,” said her husband. She used them both to fight for the causes in which she believed.”

        In her columns and reporting, those causes ranged from the sexual abuse of children to the dehumanizing bureaucracy of government. In more recent years they have included her work as an elder at Mount Auburn Presbyterian Church, where she was a leader in making “a place of open communion to members of the gay and lesbian community,” Mr. Porter said.

        Another cause was her disease. “She said that one of the greatest experiences she ever had was her cancer, which let her go on with greater reason for living,” Mr. Porter said.

        That sentiment is echoed frequently in Home is Where I Live, a collection of autobiographical essays she published two years ago. “But it is the scent of death that heightens my desire, making the more I want more desirable,” she wrote in one passage.

        In December, Ms. Warrick was awarded the Maurice McCrackin Peace and Justice Award, given annually to those whose commitment to a just society follows the example of the late social activist and minister.

        Born in Richmond, Ind., Ms. Warrick graduated from Cornell University with a bachelor's degree in American Studies and later received a master's degree in English from the University of Chicago. She began her journalism career as a reporter on the Richmond (Ind.) Palladium-Item in 1978, and came to the Enquirer in 1982.

        As a reporter she covered the religion and medical beats before becoming the newspaper's local columnist in 1985. She won numerous reporting and writing awards and was named the top writer in the Gannett newspaper chain, which owns the Enquirer, in 1984.

        In 1993 she took a job at the Cincinnati Post, where she wrote columns and features until 1998.

        In addition to her husband and children, she is survived by her father, Dr. Francis Bewley Warrick, of Richmond, Ind.; a brother, Bill Warrick, and a sister, Anne Chalker, both of Indianapolis.

        Funeral services will be 10 a.m. Saturday at Mount Auburn Presbyterian Church, 103 William Howard Taft Road, Mount Auburn. Visitation will be 4-7 p.m. Friday at the church.

        Memorials may be made to Mount Auburn Presbyterian Church or the The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, P.O. Box 650309, Dallas, 75265.


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