PHOTO INDEX: THE LATE RON ALLEN.
THE JOYOUS GOODBYE
Wakes can go either way. They can be a maudlin experience or an uplifting one for those the deceased left behind. On his radio shows, Ron Allen was fond of saying, "Don't get maudlin on me!" I went to Ron Allen's wake on Friday afternoon and it was anything but maudlin. To be sure it was sad but tinged with that sorrow were great memories and stories of Ron as a man, a father, a husband, a broadcaster and as a sports fan. In his coffin was a Baltimore Orioles cap. His wife told me, "We watched every game this year and they finished 27 1/2 games out of first!" Only a sportscaster's wife would know that statistic.
There were old radio guys there, people who were part of the WARM family, extended and otherwise. I sat with Tommy Woods and his wife and after sharing some funny stories, Tommy said, "You know, we were like family. We were collectively the Sensational 7 but we were all for one and for the most part one for all". Bill Kelly from WVIA TV and FM stopped by and shared a lengthy conversation with Mrs. Allen and his daughter. Bobby Day from WBRE TV and long time media and records guy Joe Middleton paid their respects as well as countless others I can't even mention. What was striking were the number of people who came from out of the area, John Hancock, Program Director of WARM in the 80s and now a major personality on WBT in Charlotte was there. "When I told Ron I wound up in Charlotte, he immediately interrupted me and said, "WBT, that's the big time!", he was so proud and I was so glad he was so tickled". Kelly Reed came in from out of town as well as others who had to say the final goodbye. "I told him I'd see him again and here I am" said Hancock pointing toward Ron.
On air radio and TV tributes flooded the airwaves on WNEP with Sara Buynovsky, WBRE's Andy Mehalschick and WYOU'TV's Lendell Stout. Joe Thomas and Rob Nyehard devoted a large portion of their Saturday talk show with hilarious remembrances of Ron Allen.
There were numerous flower arrangements in the funeral home. One was from the Dickson City Class of 1955. By chance, two of Ron's old classmates sat by Tommy Woods and me. And they shared their stories. Like Ron's nickname from gade school. It was "Pi", after the mathematical equation because it turned out that Ron was the only kid in the third grade who knew about that aspect of Math. We asked what type of student he was and she said he was brilliant but never wanted people to know he was that smart in high school. "That changed when he got into radio" said one of the classmates. "I thought he was the smartest guy in the world". The two recounted Ron's return to their 50th class reunion and how even hobbled by his stroke, he was the star of the event. Ron's classmates talked about how kind he was in school and how he enjoyed late night TV, especially Steve Allen. One classmate said, "It was a big deal for us in the fifties to stay up late nights and watch TV while we were in high school. Sometimes we'd go to my house and Ron would love watching Steve Allen who I think was his idol if you ask me".
That memory brought to my mind one word to describe Ron Allen: BIG. His ideas always were innovative, they were usually new and they were big. What better way to remember Ron Allen, his contributions to sports talk radio, top 40 radio and broadcasting than the signature Steve Allen theme, "This Could Be the Start of Something Big".