I can't pinpoint the precise date I met Tony Snow, but I remember it was over the telephone. We talked about one of his passions: radio. And we became fast friends. From that point on, we talked every few months, until about three or four months ago when I could only get his voice mail.
I knew something was up because he was always good about returning calls. Still, I probably would have chalked it up to his busy schedule, except that I read news reports that he was forced to cancel a number of speeches because of illness.
I remember e-mailing a few mutual friends: Lucianne Goldberg and Kathryn Lopez. Both shared similar concerns, but we were all cautiously relieved when follow-up news stories reported Tony was OK.
I had no idea Tony had taken a turn for the worse, so the news of his death Saturday completely shocked me. The last time I talked to Tony about his disease, he was entirely upbeat and optimistic.
In retrospect, I have to wonder whether he wasn't sparing some of his friends the extent of his illness because he never wanted to dwell on himself and certainly was never seeking sympathy.
Tony was a person who always gave more than he took or received in a relationship. Even when he called seeking advice or an opinion, he invariably inquired, with absolute earnestness and intense interest, how things were going in my life, and he wouldn't end the conversation until I responded.
The last time I saw him was when he took time out of his insanely busy workday to give my daughters and me a personal tour of the West Wing. We will never forget that experience -- or his graciousness.
When the White House offered Tony the press secretary position, I was among the many friends he called seeking opinions on whether it was a good move. My guess is that he had already pretty much decided to take the job, but I don't know for sure.
What I do know for sure, though, is how I reacted -- and why. At the time, Tony had his nationally syndicated radio show and was working hard on building his affiliate and audience base. He knew if he took the White House position, he would lose his momentum and make less money. But it was obvious he really wanted to take the job.
My unhesitating and unequivocal response was that he should take it. This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and the position was tailor-made for Tony Snow. It would give him the opportunity to demonstrate his full range of skills, in ways that even television and radio would not. He was excellent on television and radio and a gifted writer; but he would be the best-ever White House press secretary and would immeasurably benefit the Bush administration.