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Mark Ambrose and Jane Helmke in 1989/photo by John Croft

Jane Helmke, the news director for KARE-11, is stepping down to spend more time with family. Helmke has been on personal leave since last November so she could assist her partner who is battling cancer.

“Journalism has never been just a job. It is an honor and a great responsibility,” Helmke wrote in a note to her colleagues last week, first reported by AdWeek's TV Spy. “I am so fortunate to have spent the past 35 years with the best people at the best television station in the country…who know how to have a little fun too!”

General manager John Remes praised Helmke for her commitment and passion for the station.

"Jane bleeds KARE and this community," he said Monday. "No one here cared more."

Reporter Boyd Huppert had this to say:

“She’s been an exceptional news manager and it hurts to lose her. Jane always asked, ‘What can we do today to make a difference in our community?’ That was Jane. Every day was about making a difference, for her family, for her employees, for our viewers.”

Stacey Nogy, assistant news director, is continuing to run news operations on a daily basis for the time being. The Minneapolis-St. Paul market continues to be the only major market in the country with women running the top four TV newsrooms. Remes said he is just starting the process of looking for a full-time replacement.

Helmke joined KARE as an intern more than 35 years ago and steadily moved up the ladder. She was named news director in 2011.

“People come to this market thinking that they’ll go on to the network, but they discover this is a great place to live, with great arts and great communities,” Helmke said in an interview late last year.