By Joi Thomas
Special to the AFRO

I keep thinking I am going to wake up and this would have all been a bad dream.  Living in a socially distanced state, through a world-wide pandemic and losing a close friend cannot be happening at the same time; however, it is my reality. On Wednesday, June 10, my friend, Soror and radio colleague, Tyra Womack was taken from this world suddenly, before any of us were ready for her to go.  She is known on the airwaves as Tyra Philips, radio announcer with Gospel Grace, on WEAA 88.9FM, where she has done the church announcements for over 30 years.  She has a distinctive voice and always reminds churches to send in their announcements “legibly handwritten or typed.” She had a smile that could light up a room and did for many of us when she entered.  She earned a BA degree in English from University of Maryland Baltimore County and is a graduate of the Broadcasting Institute of Maryland.  

Tyra was also a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc and First Apostolic Faith Church where she did church announcements during Sunday service. She was also very active in the music ministry- singing on the choir and dance ministry. She loved her church and was proud to represent it whenever she had the chance. 

Tyra Phillips Womack (Courtesy Photo)

I met Tyra when I began working for Gospel Grace on WEAA as a radio host. I actually grew up hearing her on the radio, so I was super excited to meet her and work with her.  She was such a sweet person, with a huge heart.  The one thing I will always remember about Tyra is her smile.  Once I began doing the afternoon shift, Tyra and I saw each other every Sunday. We would catch up about our week, share stories about our sons, talk about sorority news and so much more.  She would give me advice and we would laugh about anything and everything.  She told me she was my big sister.  She adopted me as her little sister and I loved her for that.  Her segment was at 3:38 p.m., but often she would stay with me until my shift was over at 5 p.m.  If she was in the studio during the flash back hour, we would both be singing and reminiscing over the music. She was a soprano and I’m an alto, so we had to sing our parts! Always smiling, always laughing, we had such a great time together doing what we loved to do.

Our Gospel Grace team is a family and on Sunday we will devote the entire day’s programming to honoring Tyra. Each of them had something wonderful to say about our teammate:

 “Tyra was an all-around sweet person. She was caring and compassionate. When I first got to the radio station and I didn’t know anybody, she took me under her wing and she would say, “Jamal is my boy” I never forgot that. She was always there to make sure I felt a part of the team. She wasn’t a person who wanted to be in the spotlight. She was happy being in the background pushing others and rooting them on.” Jamal McCollum, host, Gospel Grace Sunday Brunch

“Tyra had such an incredible smile and sweet personality. She could really brighten up a room when she walked in. Plus, she would help you out anyway that she could in the studio.  I will miss my teammate.” Mark Waldrum, host, Gospel Grace Instruments of Praise

“Tyra and I always laughed through everything that we encountered over many years. She looked to me to soften any blows with a joke, jester or laughter.  If I criticized anyone, Tyra never joined in or had a bad word or comment but instead, would say “Ernestine maybe they have a reason or they don’t feel good.” Tyra’s smile alone would pull me into her kind space.  My dear Tyra, while I cannot see you with my eyes or touch you with my hands, do know that I will always feel you in my heart.” Ernestine Jones, host, Gospel Grace at Daybreak

“We are devastated by this unconscionable lost leaving a hole in our hearts. Tyra was a beam of light and love; and the 88.9 FM signal will be a bit dimmer as a result of her absence. A fiercely protective mom, a devoted daughter, a loyal sister and compassionate friend-my friend and sister.  Tyra will be sorely missed.” Derryck Fletcher, host, Gospel Grace Morning Show

“Tyra was the perfect fit to bring light and hope to the community. She understood the importance of peace and love. She super served our community in that way on WEAA.

Malarie Pinkard Pierre, station manager:

“We are truly saddened, as a community and more importantly as a family, by the inexplicable and senseless death of one our dearest WEAA 88.9 voices- Tyra “Phillips” Womack” 

DeWayne Wickham, dean of Morgan State University’s School of Journalism and Global Communication:

Tyra was a humble person, never seeking to be in the limelight. She was definitely a team player and did what was needed to accomplish the team goal. She was fiercely loyal and if she loved you, she had your back. Most importantly she was a woman of faith, and she shared it with others. Tyra loved her family and often gave them shout outs after her announcements. Her son Jerel was the love of her life. She beamed with pride whenever she spoke of him.  

1 Samuel 20:18 (NIV) states “Then Jonathan said to David, Tomorrow is the New Moon feast.  You will be missed because your seat will be empty.” Tyra you may not have realized just how much you meant to so many, but we all collectively feel this loss. While we rejoice in knowing you are with your Lord and Savior, we will miss you immensely down here. Enjoy heaven Big Sis. Keep everyone informed with your announcements. I love you!