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Maria Mercader, whose work at CBS News helped deliver the division’s breaking news from the U.S. and around the world to viewers, died Sunday due to coronavirus, CBS News said. She was 54 years old and had been on medical leave for an unrelated matter since the last week in February.

CBS News said Mercader  fought cancer and related illnesses for more than 20 years, and noted that numerous treatments and surgeries had left her among the most vulnerable to the disease.

“Even more than her talents as a journalist, we will miss her indomitable spirit,” said Susan Zirinsky, CBS News president and senior executive producer, in a statement. “Maria was part of all of our lives. Even when she was hospitalized – and she knew something was going on at CBS, she would call with counsel, encouragement, and would say ‘you can do this.’  I called Maria a ‘warrior,’ she was.   Maria was a gift we cherished.”

In her most recent role, director of talent strategy, Mercader helped spearhead CBS News’ workplace diversity efforts.  She was active in coordinating the news unit’s participation in the Asian American Journalists Association, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association and the National Association of Black Journalists.

Maria Carla Mercader was born November 28, 1965 in New York City.  She attended the all-girls Dominican Academy in Manhattan and went on to graduate from the College of New Rochelle in 1987, when she joined the CBS Page Program. She began her career at CBS Newspath, where she learned the ropes producing news packages for CBS affiliate distribution. Over the course of her career, she helped produce some of the biggest breaking news coverage for the CBS News, including the death of Princess Diana and the 9/11 attacks.  She won a business-news Emmy in 2004 for her work on a “CBS Sunday Morning” report on computer spam.

Mercader is survived by her father, Manuel and brother, Manuel.

“If you knew Maria, you loved her. She inspired everyone with the power of her spirit in the face of a serious illness many would have succumbed to long ago.,” Zirinsky said in a memo to staff. “She endured harsh treatments and long hospitalizations, each time returning to the office triumphant. Maria was our ‘Fearless Girl’ long before that statue appeared on Wall Street.”