A Tribute to Arlyne Soodik

Today at Ketchum, we’re honoring a legend, a friend and a mom to us all. Arlyne Soodik, the New York office’s retired longtime receptionist, has passed away. For nearly 20 years, she was a fixture at Ketchum, and even now, nearly four years after she left the agency, her impact on the people who worked with her remains as strong and fresh as ever. 

Already, hundreds of stories are pouring in from people associated with Ketchum about how Arlyne touched their lives. Their memories are vivid, which is only fitting when considering Arlyne’s larger-than-life persona. 

I had the pleasure of working with Arlyne for nearly a decade and sitting just around the corner from her for several of those years. She took such good care of me that I didn’t even mind when I was sent to fetch someone for an important phone call when they didn’t pick up their line. 

But mostly what I remember about Arlyne is how she welcomed my children, then toddlers, into the Ketchum office on their first visit to see mom at work. She embraced them like they were her own grandchildren, and before long, one was on her lap. Before they left, she made sure they each had a dollar in their pocket and candy in their mouths. We met a lot of people that day, but wouldn’t you know, it was Arlyne whom they remembered. Later that day, my son said to me, “The lady with the white hair by the phone was really nice. Can we go see her again?” From the mouths of babes. . .

In honor of Arlyne’s life and character, several people whose lives she had touched over the years share some of their sentiments and memories. We invite you to do the same in the comments section.

Ray Kotcher, Senior Partner and CEO, Ketchum
“As I said on the occasion of her retirement, Ketchum couldn’t have wished for a better brand ambassador than Arlyne. She turned everyone who stopped at her desk into a member of the Ketchum family, making a major impact on each employee, client, prospect or other visitor to our New York office. Her presence was just as responsible for Ketchum’s success during the years she worked here as any other factor, and her absence leaves a hole in all of our hearts. She will be missed.”

Rob Flaherty, Senior Partner and President, Ketchum
“Arlyne was the first person that every visitor met when they arrived at our global headquarters for nearly 20 years. The entire firm is shedding a collective tear today. Arlyne taught all of us supposed experts in public relations what it really means to build relationships. She had that gift that made you feel that you were her favorite. Her notes and messages left on your voice mail brightened your day and made you feel special. For years I thought I was one of only two or three people that got the full Arlyne treatment — only to find out on her last day at Ketchum that she, among other things, sang a happy birthday voice mail to every employee in the New York office.

“When Arlyne retired just three short years ago, we invited staff, clients and friends of Ketchum to the party. It was a sign of her extraordinary impact that the crowd was huge — overflowing from our largest conference room into the reception area that was her daily stage. Indeed, it ended up being the largest reunion of current and former employees and clients we have ever had.

“Arlyne was a shining example of what it means to use your unique gifts of love and compassion to show us all how to be a better friend, mother, spouse, and better person. She was so selfless and focused on others’ well being. It would be a noble goal in life to try to emulate Arlyne’s generosity, warmth and genuine concern for others. That’s the legacy she left at Ketchum, and we’re all much better off for it.”
Barri Rafferty, Senior Partner and Director, New York
“Arlyne lit up the front desk with her energy and warm welcomes. She would tell you if your outfit was appropriate or if your new hair color met her standards. Her honesty and candor made us laugh each day. She knew all of our clients, and they knew her. They brought her and her grandchildren gifts (even when the grandchildren were 20-something). She knew the value of relationships and made you feel special. She was a strong presence at the agency for a long career, and the fond memories of Arlyne will live on. I hope we are all lucky enough to have a second grandmother as Arlyne was to so many of us.”
Dale Bornstein, Senior Partner and Director, Global Practices
“Arlyne was like no other. She was our treasure — our iconic brand ambassador for more than 20 years. She was as real as they come. She called it like she saw it, and you couldn’t help but love her for it. She had that wonderful combination of heart and chutzpah, with charisma that knew no boundaries; you were just drawn to her. She was warm, she was welcoming, she was our guardian angel. Every morning, as you rushed past her desk, she’d give you that special wink or nod that let you know she believed in you; and no matter what life threw your way that day, you knew you could conquer it all. She was our cheerleader, surrogate grandmother, arbiter of style (yes, she was quick to point out a fashion “don’t”), a client magnet and our life advisor — all wrapped into one. On the day she retired, there was a hush that filled our hallways. Now that she has passed, there is just a big gaping hole in our hearts. Arlyne, I can hear you now . . . ‘Heaven, can I help you?’ I hope they got you a comfy chair.”
Debbie Koenigsberg, Senior Vice President, Administrative Services and Facility Management, New York
“I remember meeting Arlyne like it was yesterday. She walked into my office to interview for the receptionist position, dressed exquisitely from head to toe, silver hair and nails manicured perfectly. Her voice was friendly and warm; I immediately thought JACKPOT, we have a winner! She sat down next to me and we talked about her qualifications, her family and herself. I had never met anyone quite like her, yet I felt as if I had known her a lifetime. It was incredibly comfortable and easy talking with her. She was charming, confident and larger than life, yet unassuming and humble. She possessed a special kind of magnetism that drew you in and made you feel good about yourself and life in general. All this in less than an hour! Pretty spectacular, to say the least. That was the first of many conversations to come over the next 20 years. Since then, not a day goes by that I don’t think JACKPOT, how lucky I am for the privilege and ultimate joy of having Arlyne Soodik in my life.”