SOUTHFIELD, Mich. (FOX 2) - It was 25 years ago when Monica Gayle first arrived in Detroit and was partnered with Huel Perkins. Together, they brought their poise, professionalism and commitment to the community and to the FOX 2 News desk as the station's main anchors.
"We've been a great team for 25 years together, and I think that's pretty extraordinary," Monica said recently as she prepared to say goodbye for the final time.
On March 25, Monica Gayle and Huel Perkins both retired from FOX 2. Their run is nothing short of incredible.
"Twenty-five years - 25 years. My wife and I have been married 38 years. Monica and I have been together on that anchor desk 25 years. That's longer than a lot of people have been married," Huel said. "It's been, I think, a partnership, a team made in heaven."
Over the past two-and-a-half decades, the team has covered so many big stories - including 9/11, Kwame Kilpatrick, Barack Obama's inauguration, and the COVID-19 pandemic. But there's one that they both remember so well.
It was one of their first and, perhaps, one of the most famous: the implosion of the Hudson Building in 1998.
When it came down, the cloud enveloped the FOX 2 set, which was several blocks away.
"Monica and I, live on television," Huel said. "The charges go off, the building starts to fall, there's this huge cloud of dust that goes up initially and then starts rolling toward us."
"It was a little alarming when we saw that big mountain of smoke and ash and debris coming at us," Monica said.
"We stayed right there, we put on some masks. I'm still coughing up that dust now!" Huel said.
As Monica put it, they were part of history.
She was never afraid to work in the trenches. Before her career at FOX 2, she launched her career in her native Washington state, to local news in several markets, to CBS network news in New York.
"When I sort of look back on where I started, I had absolutely no idea where this career would take me," Monica said. "I started out shooting and editing my own stuff. Reporting and anchoring and producing the shows."
Then her career took off. She covered stories coast-to-coast and oversees on the CBS news desk and in 1992, she had a moment with an icon in news.
"I remember covering the 92 convention, and I have a picture of Dan Rather, and I had to pinch myself and say I can't believe I'm doing this."
Local news was always where she wanted to be and, when Detroit came calling, she and her husband, Dean, said yes. They had a new baby on the way and were ready to put down some roots. She admits that it was a bit daunting to move to Michigan, but it truly is the people that made it special
"Having a family, a marriage, you know, a home base was always really important to me. So I think I've had sort of the best of both worlds," she said. "I felt very welcomed. I feel like our viewers have wrapped their arms around me. I feel very blessed and grateful for that. I've always felt part of this community."
While here at FOX 2, she was able to cover the stories that matter to her: like traveling to Honduras for Operation Smile, which highlights life-changing surgeries for children born with a cleft palate.
"Women and children and families are important to me. That's sort of my niche, if you will," she said.
That's evident in her work on-air and in the community - where she'll now have more time to dedicate to causes she cares about.
"I truly believe that women need to feel empowered to take care of their families and need the tools and resources to do that. So any organization, any causes that facilitates that, I want to continue to be part of it - it's close to my heart," she said.
That's not lost on the people who have worked with Monica.
"She's just an amazing, amazing journalist. But I think what really sets her apart is her heart. She is so compassionate and cares about people - really, really cares about people," said former FOX 2 Anchor Sherri Margolis.
"She loves jokes, she loves to laugh, and we did a lot of that during the commercials," former FOX 2 Anchor Murray Feldman said. "She's just a joy to work with, and this community is really so lucky to have had her."
When the cameras are off, and she's in the newsroom and beyond, she held court there too.
"I think that what people don't know is that Monica was the one behind (making plans to) get together and have a karaoke party, (or) somebody's birthday is coming up, (or) someone's getting married - what are we doing," said FOX 2 Assistant News Director Laura Moore. "It was always about the team, and the product - always - and the family. And she will be very missed."
"Monica is really one of the most impressive people I've met in news," said FOX 2 Vice President of News Kevin Roseborough. "With Monica, she was always just that very, very calm collected person who held us together."
Her partner on the desk, Huel Perkins, said it's her genuine nature that people are drawn to.
"She is a woman filled with compassion, love, kindness - (she's) brilliant, too. But above all her compassion for people - I think that is evident in the way she delivers the news, and it's also evident away from the anchor desk," Huel said. "She is the kind of friend that will be there for life."
Her talents extend well beyond the newsroom - whether it's gardening, decorating, cooking, or singing - but her true passion is her family: her husband, Dean, her son, Tanner, and her mother, Patty.
"She's in her mid-80s and I really am looking forward to having time with her where we can just have some fun and just enjoy one-on-one time with her," Monica said. "You realize - you know - time is so precious, and you want to make the most of the time that you have left."
Now she'll get to spend more of that precious time with her mom.
"Here we are to retirement - it's absolutely amazing to me," Patty said. "And I'm very proud of her and her career. We're just excited to have unlimited time and as we choose - with no time constraints. I might even be a little bit greedy in the time I want with her. I just love her to pieces and excited for what's ahead."
"Respect and admire just aren't big enough words. I mean it's truly amazing what she's been able to accomplish. I love her so much," Tanner said. "I'm so proud of her, and I'm so excited to see what comes next, and I'm just grateful to have been a part of it the whole way."
"For as great as her career has been and as good as she is on-air and in people's homes and television, she's better as a wife and a mother. She's the best," Dean said. "Now is ‘Monica time.’ This is go-time for Monica. It's time to get out there and do what she wants, without schedules."
Their gain is our loss - but we could not be more grateful for the time we've had with Monica Gayle.
Monica is an amazing human being. A wonderful partner and a great friend. I could not have imagined this journey without her
"I'm really blessed and grateful that this is where we landed," Huel said. "It's been a great run."