Then & Now: Darla Montgomery
May 07, 2018 11:19AM ● Published by Scott Brazda
The first question, I’ll admit, was a bit of a set-up and, had the response been negative, I probably wouldn’t have included it in this article. “Who is your favorite and whom do you consider to be the most-talented co-anchor you’ve ever had?”
Luckily for my ego, Darla Montgomery played along. “You must be talking about Scott Brazda. Handsome, well-spoken, broadcasting and community icon….” Then the laughter kicked in from both sides, and the actual Then & Now interview began.
Montgomery appeared on the cover of FACE Magazine in November 2009, roughly a year and a half after a brain aneurysm brought her world to a screeching halt…right on the news set of KLFY-TV. Her heart stopped beating for over four minutes.
“I’ve experienced a number of flashbacks about that day, and I recall this feeling of looking down and seeing what (her KLFY co-anchor) Chuck Huebner was doing to me, talking to me and keeping me going. I see it, I feel it, and it took a number of months for some of those memories to manifest themselves,” she said.
One such memory was that of being intense pain, and she recalls being in a dark room. “My father came in, kissed me on the cheek and said, ‘let me go first’.” That memory flash came three or four years ago, just before her father died.
The aneurysm has left its physical scars; Montgomery lost her senses of smell and taste, “…but not my taste for life, and an unending and perhaps increased appetite to savor every minute, to soak everything in. There are no bad days, just days with more challenges than others.”
Darla being Darla, however, means the conversation turns toward someone else, always the blessings she witnesses in other people, which leads us to the aforementioned Chuck Huebner.
“Naturally, we will forever have this special bond because of my medical emergency,” explains Montgomery. “But Chuck’s latest chapter is amazing, too: For years I had prayed he’d have a child, because I knew he’d be a great father, and now it’s happened. He’s married, a consultant and a fabulous stay-at-home dad. I can’t tell you how happy I am for him.”
We begin to talk “shop” - Darla’s TV career began in 1992, only a couple years after mine - and there comes the realization that she is no the eager young reporter she once was. Now, she’s the established, veteran anchor with over 25 years’ experience.
“Oh, my gosh, when did this happen?” she laughs. But that doesn’t mean she has all the answers.
“You can never stop learning, because if you do, you limit yourself. A good journalist always carries the integrity bucket wherever she or he goes,” she said.
Corporate America has become a bigger player in broadcasting (“They’ve invaded and want to do a lot more with a lot less,” she concedes), but the news of the day, she reminds us, is still always right there in front of us.
“Many sources come through social media, but it still has to be confirmed and checked out. We still need to nurture our sources, ask everything that needs to be asked and not go off half-cocked,” Darla says.
And when it comes to the ever-growing use of technology and social media?
“While the tech is good, it shouldn’t affect the quality of your work. You still have to ask the tough questions, you still have to keep the politicians honest. We still have a responsibility to respect the nature of the story.”
Her responsibility, she says, extends also to KLFY’s younger reporters, too.
“Through the grace of God, I received help from so many others, and so I spend a time in this role shift, of trying to help those who are just starting out. The business has gotten younger, and it’s such a great reward to be able to share my love of a good story with others.”
There’s a new role for Montgomery, one away from the TV station: Grandmother. “I say, ‘Wait. What? Grandma?’” as the laughter begins anew. “My daughter Bri and her husband have a son, Dallas, who will be two-years old in August, and he is just the light of our lives. He calls me ‘Oma’, and is extremely independent; he walks around with his hands behind his back and is sort of an old soul. It’s just wonderful.”
Other blessings include the professional success of her husband, Alex. “He is now ‘Captain’ Montgomery with the Lafayette Sheriff’s office, and he oversees the criminal division. Sheriff Garber has done a great job of utilizing his people, and, because of that, I’m happy to say my wonderful husband is doing what he was meant to do. I’m so proud of him.” Visits from their other daughter, Alexis, completes the family-circle of good things for Montgomery’s home life, which, by the way, includes a culinary passion. “We cook a lot, in cast iron pots. Family members are always around on weekends, and there’s always something cooking.”
So as we wrap this up, I ask: Who is Darla Montgomery? “I am my father’s daughter,” she explains, “a kid at heart who still feels like she’s 20-something years old and is soaking up everything. But I’m also my mother’s daughter, Christian, Catholic, who realizes there are still plenty of good people out there, doing lots of good things in this world.”
So now, how would broadcasting icon Darla Montgomery describe her life? Her brush with death, she tells me, opened her eyes in so many ways. “It’s a whirlwind of beautiful surprises and blessings from God,” she smiles. “It’s unbelievable, Scott, just unbelievable. Life has never tasted sweeter.”