A quick story about somebody I worked for twenty years ago. Dennis Ryan was the General Manager of Adirondack Radio in Lake Placid, NY. In those days I was hotshot newshound. When I interviewed with Dennis, and Program Director Bob Selleck, two questions stood out.
“So, where to you want to be in five years?”
I pointed to Selleck. “I want his job. But I want him to have a better job.” That answer probably sealed the deal. Next question:
“Do you drink beer?”
My answer? “Sure, you got any?” Dennis gave me a loud laugh that sounded like it came from a barrel. I got the job.
One day he came in the studio frantic to get a lost dog report on the air. Dennis loved doing that kind of thing. I introduced Dennis, and pushed the button which I thought would turn on Dennis’ microphone. It instead lit up a satellite medical show.
“Ladies and gentlemen, General Manager Dennis Ryan of Adirondack Radio with an important announcement”
“Testicles” Dr. Dean Edell said one word before I flipped the switch and turned on the guest mic.
“Folks, we got a lost dog…”
Dennis wasn’t wearing headphones. He had no idea. I imagined people all over town wondering why Dennis said,”testicles” on the radio. Years later when I told him that story, he laughed that big laugh.
I learned more in that year than I can say here. When money was short, and my car broke down, Dennis took money from his own pocket. Winter came, my jacket wasn’t up to the task, and Dennis took me to get a parka.I enjoyed many, many beers with the Adirondack Radio Good Guys.
I also learned how to make a radio station the center of a community. Dennis broadcast from garage sales, fire department fundraisers and took the fire truck out to schools dressed as Santa. Dennis put on the 4th of July fireworks shows in Lake Placid – literally settig up and launching the pyrotechnics. Years later, Dennis spearheaded the effort to repair and relight the Olympic Torch.
It’s been twenty years; I worked for Dennis about a year. Still, barely a day goes by that I don’t apply a lesson he taught. He insisted the Good Guys pushed in their office chairs, worked hard, and enjoyed the most beautiful place on earth, the High Peaks region of the Adirondacks. The picture on my blog heading is from Dennis’ facebook page.
A few weeks ago Dennis ended his own life. He was healthy, well-respected in his community, and married to a wonderful woman who loved him. Still loves him. And yet he gave it all up.
I don’t know why. I’ve given up trying to figure it out. But let me tell you this. I know there’s just about no price I wouldn’t pay to hear that laugh again, and to know that Dennis was there.
Dennis Ryan was 58.
An update: I remembered that there is a video of Dennis talking about his father who was a Pearl Harbor survivor. The first part (the sailor introducing Dennis) has poor sound, but when Dennis starts talking, the audio is super clear (so don’t turn it off right away!)