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Howard's Commentary - Life is Good

I am one of the Grand Marshals for this year's Perkins Restaurant and Bakery Fantasy in Lights Parade in downtown Wheeling.

It is a tremendous honor.

When I was a wee one, I marched in the parade--back when it was still held in the daylight--as part of several community groups I was a member of.

Later, as an Ambassador for the Wheeling Area Chamber of Commerce, I worked the parade route.

When my kids were tiny ones we took them downtown to watch the parade roll by and see Santa come in on his float. As they grew, my wife and I settled in to watch the boys proudly march by in the Bridge Street and Wheeling Park bands.

My oldest son, Jason, once drove the car as our radio station took part in the parade--along with the "Loony Liberal Ellen Ratner and Crusty Conservative Congressman Bob Ney".

In recent years, Nancy and I settle in with DiCarlos Pizza and watch the parade on TV.

Now I'm back downtown and in one of the lead cars, waving to the crowd, listening to the echoes of the "Pride of West Virginia, WVU Marching Band"--who will soon be featured in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. Thinking of how many people have been in that Grand Marshal car before me--from Phil Niekro to Jodie Sweetin, Randy Worls to the Disney characters, astronauts and teachers, and so many more--big names and local celebs.

The parade and the town have changed a lot over the years. The daylight parade gave way long ago to a nighttime lighted event. My childhood Santa Claus stores are gone now. No more Cooey Bentz or Stone and Thomas. In fact, not much retail anymore in the old Central Business District. I can remember when Christmas downtown meant shoulder-to-shoulder shoppers hustling from one store to another with the Salvation Army bells ringing all around. Those days are gone.

But this year the parade will dodge a lot of construction work as the City begins to see a rebirth. Stone and Thomas isn't there, but we'll swing past the Stone Lofts which now house young people living in our downtown. The under-construction Health Plan building --still hidden by construction fencing--means hundreds of new people soon to be working downtown. When I was younger, looking down 12th Street to the river meant peering into the steel monstrosity that was the Wharf Parking Garage, now we see the river clearly as we gaze past the Heritage Port. As we swing by the Center Market, old bars and strip clubs are gone and there's a thriving creative community of shops and restaurants that have brought new excitement to the area.

It is a feeling of great pride as I ride this Grand Marshal car.

Earlier this year, my colleagues around the Mountain State saw fit to add my name to those in the WV Broadcasters' Hall of Fame. It is unbelievably humbling to be ensconced now with the likes of J Ross Felton who ran WWVA in its glory years, Mark Davis who was WTRF's quintessential News Director and anchor, the rapid-mouth "Dougger" who kept me awake into the evening in my high school years when he held down nights as one of the Good Guys on 14WK, and my friend, the "Dean of WV Broadcasters", Hoppy Kercheval. When I opened my little high school mouth all those years ago to take a stab at this broadcasting gig, I would never have imagined all these decade later I would be added to the list of Hall-of-Famers.

And every weekday morning I still have the opportunity to wake up the Valley, share my opinions, take an occasional beating from the listeners, and continue doing the thing I enjoy the most--talk radio in my home town. I am blessed to be able to do so and thankful to those who still let me do it--and those who still tune in.

If this seems like a self-indulgent commentary--I guess it it :).

But as I reflect on these life events...and think of my delightful little grandson Teddy...and the quiet comfort of sitting at home with my wife...and the success all of my boys are having in life now...and the extended family, step grandkids, daughters-in-law....I can't help but remember the words my late friend, Jerry Williams, would always say when I saw him:

LIFE IS GOOD.

And as I say every day at the end of my show: the good Lord willing, creeks don't rise, and the Batphone doesn't ring, I'll be back every morning for another go 'round of our Big Gig.

I'm not done yet.

Categories: Commentary