Louisville community reacts to the unexpected death of Francene Cucinello at age 43

Louisville community reacts to the unexpected death of Francene Cucinello at age 43

Louisville community reacts to the unexpected death of Francene Cucinello at age 43


by Adrianna Hopkins


Posted on January 16, 2010 at 1:00 AM

Updated Monday, Jan 18 at 2:46 PM

(WHAS11) A public memorial service is being held Monday after the stunning news that 43-year-old radio talk show host, Francene Cucinello suddenly died this afternoon.

She was last on the air on WHAS radio during the snow day last Friday.

Her trademark sign off was to always tell people to live every moment to the fullest.

And that is how she closed her show last week, “…until then stay warm, go play in the snow, have some fun. Remember that life is short.”

Cucinello suffered a heart attack on Monday of this week. It was followed by a brain aneurysm on Wednesday.

She died at Norton hospital at 3:15 p.m. on Friday.

I talked to one of Francene’s good friends who was with her Monday morning before she went to the hospital.

He told WHAS11 that for the past few weeks Francene thought she had a sinus infection.

Monday morning she went to his house, she had shortness of breath and was flushed so they called an ambulance.

He said the doctors believed she had pneumonia.  That same day, her lung collapsed and she suffered a heart attack.

As she was recovering, her friend told us, she suffered a brain aneurysm and things went downhill from there.

It’s a sudden death that her coworkers, listeners and friends are reeling over.

On the streets of Louisville Friday night, it was the main focus of conversation.

Terry Meiners said, “Obviously we’re all stunned and saddened to learn about our colleague, Francine Cucinello, who passed away today.”

And the calls came rolling in to 84 WHAS Radio, home of the wildly successful, sometimes controversial, but always passionate, Francene Show.

And news of Francene’s death at just 43 years old left many of her listeners looking for words to express their emotion.

Alice, who called into the radio show said, “I don’t know, I don’t know.  My life won’t be the same without her.”

Jonathon, another caller said, “I enjoyed listening to her.  I emailed her and she would always email me back. Sometimes she would email me back an entire paragraph.”

And Julie said, “I had called in a couple of times on controversial issues with Francene and even though she and I had disagreed, she was easy to talk to and was able to keep an open mind on what I was saying.”

Alice continued, “I’m going to miss Francene.  My morning drive will not be the same. I loved her bubbly personality.” “

An icon, becoming larger than life here in Louisville in just the six years she was on air.

One listener called her a “spitfire.”  Others called her tough as nails, and controversial.

Either way, she wasn’t afraid to take anyone to task.

According to her good friend Dean Corbett, she’d been approached about running for congress. He told her she could stand toe to toe with anyone in the political ring.

Friends for three years, the two were supposed to have dinner Friday night at 5:00 p.m., but she texted him last week that she was ill.

Tragic for everyone; her family, friends, colleagues and listeners who said Francene had become a family member.  Whether they agreed with her or disagreed.

Bryan Hash, who worked with Francene said, “She loved being a reporter.  People would say she’s a radio personality, but she would consider herself journalist because she loved digging into stories. I respected her for that.”

Dave Stone, pastor of Southeast Christian Church said, “Francine loved this community, worked at WHAS longer than any other station and stayed here longer than in any other city; she poured herself into this community and worked for the underdog.”

Meiners said, “She magnified issues that needed some magnification.  Oftentimes people in power like to work behind closed doors and Francine said, ‘open the doors... we’re all gonna have a look.’ and she’s the first one in.”

Tony Vanetti, afternoon underdog at 790am radio said, “She was unique to radio; commercial radio.  She was pretty much it, when you talk about personalities and talk shows that were going to call people to the carpet.  You answered to Francene on her show every single day.”

Francene was a strong believer in organ donation.  Her good friend, Mark Lamkin of Louisville told us that seven different organs from Francene will now be donated; seven different lives will benefit from hers.

How will Francene be remembered in Louisville?

Most people say it’s job creation.  When the economy tanked, she turned her show on Fridays over to people who needed jobs, so they could connect with local employers listening to her show.  It’s estimated that she got up to 500 people jobs; many of those people would call her often to thank her for getting them a job.