PAUL GRONDAHL Staff writer
Section: MAIN,  Page: A1

Date: Saturday, June 13, 1998

It was a rainy, dreary Friday that called for a culinary flourish as a final sign-off. NewsChannel 13 anchor Chris Kapostasy, respected by colleagues for her promotion to NBC network news and beloved for her major-league baking skills, had just the right addition.

To two pounds of butter, gourmet espresso and other ingredients for a decadent chocolate cake frosting, Kapostasy free-lanced from the recipe. She opened a bottle of Kahlua and let the dark liqueur glug into a mixing bowl for several long seconds.

``Now, that's my idea of a great frosting,'' she said, licking the potent frosting from a spoon. ``Wait until we try to read the news tonight.''

Kapostasy may be the only news anchor to arrive at her own farewell office party bearing cake -- two Four Seasons Hotel blackout chocolate buttermilk cakes, to be precise, as well as chocolate and roasted macadamia nut squares.

If Kahlua could hold back the inevitable flood of tears for Kapostasy's final newscasts Friday night -- capping an Emmy Award-winning, 17-year career with WNYT -- the 41-year-old anchor was willing to make it a double shot.

``Oh, man, we've been pathetic,'' Kapostasy said of the river of tears shed on-air and off with co-anchor Ed Dague and NewsChannel 13 colleagues over her departure. ``I'm usually not a big crier, but it's so hard to say goodbye.''

Each newscast on her final day was punctuated with hugs and emotional goodbyes.

``I just want to say what a wonderful run it has been,'' Kapostasy said after a video tribute during the 6 p.m. news. ``I cannot thank you for the outpouring of support and good wishes.'' Her voice cracked, and her eyes brimmed. ``And I said I wasn't going to cry.''

The end, at 12:30 a.m., came without the tears of the 6 p.m. broadcast. A supporter of the Big Brothers/Big Sisters program throughout her years at WNYT, Kapostasy received a large bouquet from two former ``little'' brothers and then closed the newscast, telling the audience:

``You're the best out there, and have a great night.''

Since Kapostasy announced two weeks ago that she signed a four-year contract with NBC News, she has basked in an outpouring of community affection the magnitude of which most governors don't get when they leave Albany.

There was the Tuesday night tribute dinner attended by 400 of her closest friends. The big thank-you ad taken out in local newspapers. Hundreds of letters, calls, e-mails and congratulatory visits. Her cubicle at the Menands TV station was buried Friday under gift baskets.

The five-bedroom custom contemporary home in Wynanskill that Kapostasy shares with her husband, Robert Jansing, a chemist for the state Health Department, and their dachshund, Baron, sprouted with arrangements of mums and tulips in many hues. ``This place doesn't usually look like a funeral home,'' Kapostasy said.

In the hyper-reality of television, though, Kapostasy's call-up to the big leagues of network news signaled a kind of wake for her loyal hometown viewers.

The letters that covered a kitchen table spoke of a kind of communal bereavement. There was one from a woman who met her in the produce aisle of a local supermarket 15 years ago, and Kapostasy befriended her three-year-old son in a fleeting encounter the woman never forgot. Another viewer recalled Kapostasy speaking at her son's eighth-grade graduation and she wanted to say that her son, now in graduate school, was inspired by words Kapostasy can no longer recall.

``It's made me remember what a powerful medium television is,'' Kapostasy said. ``We really connect with people on a personal level. It's overwhelming.''

At the TV station, after Kapostasy's cakes were inhaled in short order, the scene had the feel of the end of a long theater run. ``We're happy sad,'' General Manager Steve Baboulis said. ``It's been a real roller coaster of emotions this week. We're so proud of her.''

Co-workers praised Kapostasy for being a hard-working reporter and a compassionate human being in an industry known for its hollow smiles and large egos.

``Unlike many in this business, Chris has a heart that's bigger than her mouth,'' said Lou Swierzowski, a videographer for 17 years who worked closely with Kapostasy. Swierzowski said whenever a colleague suffered a personal loss, Kapostasy was the first one who visited the hospital, wrote a card of condolence or baked a cake.

Kapostasy put to use a white stretch limousine hired by station executives to chauffeur her around on her last day. She sent it to pick up some kids and staff members with Big Brothers/Big Sisters, a group she has long been associated with through her ``Monday's Child'' segment. They came to the station with scrap books and photo albums. More tears for Kapostasy.

Even Kapostasy's wardrobe made for tears Friday. She wore the same blouse she bought 11 years ago for her first newscast beside Dague. Her normally stoic co-anchor fought back tears Friday. Dague said when he got the news of Kapostasy's departure, he put on dark sunglasses and mowed his lawn. ``I bawled my eyes out,'' he said. Dague calculated he and Kapostasy sat side by side on the Channel 13 set for 4,600 newscasts since 1987, far more than the 3,300 or so he figured the fabled team of Chet Huntley and David Brinkley did together.

``I'm embarrassed by how much I've been crying,'' Dague said. ``I realize now I've been crying out of pride.''

Kapostasy rockets from the 52nd market to No. 1 -- from about 150,000 viewers to roughly 10 million -- and the big jump comes with large fears.

``I'm sure the first day I'm on the `Today' show set, I'll be weak in the knees,'' she said.

She'll hit the TelePrompTer running. Kapostasy is scheduled to read the news on the weekend ``Today'' show June 27 and 28. After that, she'll fill in for Bridget Quinn on the MSNBC News morning show while Quinn is on maternity leave. She expects assignments for ``Dateline NBC'' by the end of summer.

Kapostasy is uncertain what she'll do with the house she and her husband built five years ago, or when her husband will be able to find a new job and make the move to New York. She'll get a Manhattan hotel room for now and commute home on weekends.