Friday, January 15, 2010

Francene Cucinello dead at 43 morning talk show host Francene Cucinello died Friday after suffering a brain aneurysm earlier in the week.

According to WHAS-AM’s Web site,, Cucinello, 43, suffered a heart attack Monday, followed by the aneurysm Wednesday. She died at 3:15 p.m. Friday at Norton Hospital.

According to a statement from Cucinello’s family, there will be no visitation, but the community is invited to a one-hour memorial service Monday at 10 a.m., at Southeast Christian Church, 920 Blankenbaker Parkway.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to support aneurysm research at any BB&T branch under the title “Francene Fund.”

‘Driven by compassion’

U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Ky., a regular guest on Cucinello’s show, released a statement Friday saying that the radio host was “driven by compassion for those around her.”

“She woke up every morning excited to use her position to help make people’s lives better,” Yarmuth said in the statement. “And that’s exactly what she did — entertaining and informing us, always giving back, personally helping people find jobs, and so much more. The more time I spent with her, the more I respected her intellect and admired her generosity. I am devastated for the loss to this community and heartbroken for the loss of my friend. My thoughts and prayers are with her mother and all of her friends.”

Louisville Metro Mayor Jerry Abramson released a separate statement about Cucinello’s death.

“While we didn’t always agree on the issues, Francene had a special way of spurring people to talk about subjects important to our community and our state,” Abramson said in the statement.

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear also issued a statement: “I considered her a friend, despite her tough questions, and I enjoyed our frequent interviews on her show. People felt like they knew Francene because she was so open and honest, and her death is a terrible blow to the community.”

Kentucky attorney general Jack Conway, in a statement, called Cucinello’s death a “terrible tragedy.”

He recalled seeing her at a play on the issue of cyber-safety that the two attended a few weeks ago at Fern Creek High School.

“She contributed greatly to the public discourse in Kentucky,” Conway said in the statement. “Her listeners were her cause, and I loved that passion. It was never a 9-to-12 radio job for her. … She carried her commitment with her at all times.”

Conway added that Cucinello frequently followed up with him after he was a guest on her show to “make certain we were taking action” on matters.

“When I was on her show talking about the issues, I knew she and her listeners were holding me accountable,” Conway added. “I always found her well-researched, and she will be missed.”

Focus on hot-button issues

Cucinello came to Louisville in 2003, following the departure of controversial radio host John Ziegler.

She focused her show on state and local politics and hot-button issues affecting residents in Kentucky and Southern Indiana.

Last year, as the economy soured, she opened up the airwaves on Fridays to companies that wanted to advertise job openings. In February 2009, she also partnered with Bellarmine University to produce “Job Jam,” a free seminar for people looking for work.

In addition to her work as a radio show host, Cucinello also was a columnist for LEO Weekly, an alternative newspaper in Louisville.

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