WILMINGTON — To Lee Hendee, there are only three reasons why someone gives you a special award.
“You’re either incredibly old, have done something special, or you’re being pardoned by the governor.”
Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger recently honored Hendee for his 50 years of service to the community.
“It was exciting,” said Hendee. “I’ve never gotten any kind of recognition like that before. I appreciate Cliff bringing that down.”
Hendee’s passion for radio got its start back in 1967 when he did reports for East Clinton High School. But the influence came when he heard a voice from Hillsboro on the radio.
“His name was Willard Parr and I’d hear him say, ‘La-Z-Boy chair.’ Just the inflection and tone of his voice, he had a great bass-baritone voice. The way he did that and the way he said ‘Hillsboro, Ohio’ made me think about doing broadcasting,” said Hendee.
Hendee also talked about three people he remembered hearing on the radio and going, “Wait a minute, I know those guys, they’re my neighbors.”
Those three were Gary Page, Gary West, and Chuck Collier, whom he went to school and it made him want to pursue radio broadcasting. After going to broadcasting school in Dayton he was at various radio stations, many of them small-town stations where he picked up skills of the trade.
Just six years ago he started WALH 106.7 in Wilmington.
Through the years, Hendee has seen equipment evolve, he’s conducted over 6,000 interviews, and he’s met interesting local residents, politicians and celebrities. He remembered one particular instance where he came across a country singer not as well-known as she wold be later.
“There was a time when this car came up and it had a woman and a man and a gaggle of kids,” said Hendee. “They pulled up and the woman got out carrying a guitar — it turned out to be Loretta Lynn.”
She gave them a copy of her new record she made and played them a song.
One event that had an effect on Hendee was during the ’70s when a local farm had a barn fire that killed the livestock inside.
“I was out there reporting on it and I could hear the livestock dying inside. It stuck with me for years,” said Hendee.
In all his years of broadcasting, whether it was meeting Johnny and June Carter Cash or working with Bill Wills of WTAM’s Wills and Snyder in Cleveland, probably his favorite thing to do is interviewing.
“You get to ask questions and get information from people that they may not disseminate with other people. And you kind of build a bit of a personal relationship with them,” said Hendee.
One example of this is the numerous interviews with country artist Ronnie McDowell. They’ve done several interviews and at one point McDowell asked him to come on stage and sing a song with him.
If there was one bit of advice he would pass down to the future of radio broadcasting, it would be to learn to truly communicate.
“Don’t just sit there and read something, try to communicate it to an audience,” Hendee said. “We’re a society now where everything is done with a message, and we should learn how to communicate with the audience.”
Reach John Hamilton at 937-382-2574