Remembering Tanya Palmer, my sort of other mother



Let’s get this straight right here in the first two sentences, she was not Tanya, as in Tawnya — she was Tanya, as in Tan-ya, rhymes with Stan-ya. That was a lesson I learned very quickly upon my first phone call with her in early September of 1995.  I never mispronounced her name again.

I was working as the producer of “Show Me St. Louis” on Channel 5 and Tanya Palmer was the first public relations person to reach out. After I understood the nuances of her first name, it was time to examine her last name, Palmer. That’s my last name, too.

I would come to learn that Tanya had two daughters, Karen and Laurel.

“You’re Karen Palmer’s mom,” I asked.

“I sure am,” said Tanya.

From there, we would learn how intertwined our lives had been, and would become.

Growing up, Karen and I had similar experiences, in that if I met anyone from Clayton High School, I’d get asked, “Are you Karen Palmer’s brother or cousin?” or “Do you know Karen Palmer?” Turns out, the same thing happened to her.

In the end, we never met. But here I was talking on the phone to the mother of a girl I sort of considered my long-lost sister. In fact, I may have even lied a few times and said she was my twin.

I told Tanya that story, all in that first phone call, and she laughed and laughed. Henceforth, she became my sort of “other mom.” We worked together until around 2001, and she was a gem. She was never without a brilliant idea for my show, or if I called her with an idea, she would make it happen. She was a mensch to the n’th degree.

Today, I learned that Tanya Frances (Millstein) Palmer passed away peacefully on Nov. 7, surrounded by her immediate family including her husband of 55 years, Stanley Palmer and her daughters Karen (Jeffrey) Bland and Laurel (Harold) Miller.

“Tanny” as she was also known, was the grandmother to the “great eight” – Kyle, Claudia, Kirby, Charlie, Rory, Sawyer, Georgia, and Coco.  One of those grandkids, would grow up and have the misfortune of parking her brand-new car perfectly, only to have my daughter sideswipe it, knocking off the side-view mirror in an ill-fated parking attempt.

I know her “great eight” will remember so much about their amazing grandmother, but the one thing I’ll remember is her voice. Now, I didn’t know until today that her slow southern drawl, which I could never quite place, came from her being born and raised in Jackson, Miss. That drawl perplexed me for years and is perhaps a subconscious reason I married a woman from the South, who just happened to attend the University of Wisconsin with Laurel Palmer.

Can’t make this stuff up.

Today, I asked Karen if I could tell this story about her mother, and she said yes. I hope this little ditty brings a smile to her and Laurel’s faces as they remember how their mother touched so many in this little community of ours.