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EXCLUSIVE: Maya Angelou’s Goddaughter Remembers The Woman She Called “Auntie Maya”

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(credit: CBS) Pat Ciarrocchi
In addition to anchoring and reporting news for CBS 3, Pat Ciarro...
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By Pat Ciarrocchi

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – “I looked at her at 86, with her little 11 a.m. scotch, working on her next book. She read me the pages of that book. She wasn’t planning on checking out from here.”

Maya Angelou may have been America’s poet, bestselling author, artist and teacher, but to civic leader Roz McPherson, soon to become CEO of the Philadelphia Urban League, she was more.

“Auntie Maya, always Auntie Maya.”

McPherson’s Aunt Dolly, her father’s sister, and Dr. Maya Angelou were best friends. They taught literature at Wake Forest University and traveled the world in the ’50s.

“They were part of protests and social change.”

And they shared a sisterhood that became central to her legacy.

“You always know this is an African American fierce woman who’s courageous, at the same time compassionate.”

Courage born of pain, growing up poor in Arkansas. At age seven she was raped by her mother’s boyfriend and she didn’t speak for five years.

Her grandmother had faith that would change.

Angelou said,”Mama knows when you and the good Lord get ready, sister, you gonna be a preacher.”

“She always sounded rich and melodious like that. There is something about black elegance.”

Roz held in her hands, His Day Is Done, a book version of Angelou’s tribute to Nelson Mandela, signed and dated.

“Joy, Maya Angelou. 5/23/2014. I feel like her day is done. “

While leaving behind her voice, the words and their gift of hope.

CBS 3’s Natasha Brown spoke with former CBS 3 news anchor Marciarose Shestack, who lost a longtime friend.

“It’s been a sad day,” she said.

The news of Maya Angelou’s death is hitting Marciarose Shestack especially hard. While the world lost an iconic poet, a teacher, an actor, singer and former dancer, former CBS 3 news anchor Marciarose Shestack lost a longtime friend — a friendship that began some 40 years ago.

“It was at KYW, she had come to do my show and ‘I Know Why The Cage Bird Sings’ had just come out. And we met on the air and just, we clicked. And it was something very special,” Shestack said.

Everywhere you turn, there are memories of the friendship spawned that day. Pictures from birthday parties, gifts of endearment. Marciarose reflects back on her last conversation with Maya Angelou less than a week ago.

“She hadn’t been feeling well lately. And we had to have it, if we called each other we would say ‘How are you?’ ‘Fine, how are you?’ ‘Fine,’ and then we’d go on with the rest of the conversation,” she said.

Shestack added, “She was a phenomenal woman. And she wrote a poem called ‘Phenomenal Woman.’ She will be missed forever.”

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