Her name was Constance Laibe Hays.  She had several beats at The New York Times and while working as a reporter there wrote an important and exhaustive book about Coca-Cola that was published by Random House, The Real Thing: Truth and Power at the Coca-Cola Company.  She was brilliant.  She was quiet.  She was the understated woman who always had the best haircut.  She ran track while studying toward her cum laude degree at Harvard.  She spoke Mandarin.  She made crème brulee at dawn so the youngest of her three children could bring it to school for one of the hundreds of occasions made more special by her thoughtfulness.  She had a knitting circle and a book group and a dozen other regular gatherings with friends whom she honored with commitments of time and energy.  She did all of this and much more while holding that full-time job at the paper and anchoring her extended family and being the woman who solved the problems of every shopkeeper in her neighborhood.  She once kept me company by walking the New York City Marathon with me.

She died in 2005 at age 44.

She lives on as the departed do—in the hearts of all who loved her.  And today when Jill Abramson’s appointment as executive editor of The Times was announced I could hear her cheer.  Connie wasn’t given to conventional sentimentalities, but she knew a revolutionary act when she saw one and believed in their elegance and importance.

Though Abramson’s ascension to the loftiest height at the world’s most powerful news organization happened after Connie was gone, I know the professionalism, intelligence, dignity, diligence, savior faire, and clear-eyed practicality of my friend gave women at The Times a very good name.  I believe she forged more than one secure rung on the endless ladder that any woman would have to climb to get to the top.

It’s a great day for women in journalism.  It is no wonder I thought of one of the greats when I heard about it.  Congratulations to Jill Abramson.  From me and Connie and all the women who knew this day would come.