Bob Lonsberry’s Column About Kevin Doran

HORNELL RADIO LEGEND PASSES AWAY
By Bob Lonsberrybob2

I only met Kevin Doran once.

I drove down from the newspaper in Rochester, past Dansville and Arkport, through Hornell, and turned right just beyond South Hornell to take the narrow road up Ashbaugh Hill.

The radio station, as I recall it, was a simple building, as they usually are in small markets.

I came nervously into his office, with the picture of the pope behind the desk.

I was meeting a giant, and I felt inadequate.

Kevin Doran was my hero, and the most important influence on my professional life. Far more significantly, he was the voice and conscience of a region. A radio friend to the country people in the hills and valleys all around.

And while I say I only met him once, I had known him for years, the way anybody with a radio did, and I stood in awe of him.

That was true 20 years ago when I drove up Ashbaugh Hill, and it is true today, as Hornell mourns his death.

Kevin Patrick Doran passed away on Wednesday. He was 77 and had been sick a long time.

I wonder who will read his obituary on the air.

For a generation and more, you didn’t get born or die in Hornell without Kevin Doran reading your name on the radio. It was the way people kept up, pausing in what they were doing to lean closer to the radio and hear the good news or bad, the comings and goings of mortality.

His was a deep and authoritative voice. A no-nonsense voice that sounded big and commanding, yet not practiced or fake. He had pipes.

He also had a heart and a mind and a backbone and a soul, and he used them all with regularity and vigor. He believed in God, America and his duty to his fellow man, and you didn’t have to listen very long to be convinced of that. He wasn’t a man who lived in a shades-of-gray world. He believed in right and wrong and he was dead certain where the dividing line was drawn. That was just as true of the political as it was of the divine.

And you got that over the air.

Kevin Doran would tell you exactly what he thought about America and exactly what he thought about God. He wasn’t afraid to tell you who he voted for or what he prayed about or who he thought you should vote for or what he thought you should pray about.

But he wasn’t obnoxious or belligerent. Ultimately, he loved and was loved.

He struggled, he had a thorn in his flesh, like the Apostle Paul. But he pushed on and he pushed through and his legacy is one of service.

And nothing exemplifies that more than three days in June of 1972.

A hurricane came up the East Coast and parked over New York and Pennsylvania and no one after that would ever forget the name Agnes. The skies opened and the creeks rose and lives were washed away. There were picnic tables on electric wires, holes where there once had been homes, and people huddling behind the dikes waiting for it to end.

Kevin hadn’t owned the stations very long then. He was a prominent Hornell boy, but an uncertain quantity on the air, and most folks hadn’t taken his measure.

Through three days of hell they learned he was a giant.

And a watchful, protective friend.

For three days, day and night, Kevin Doran stayed on the air. Through the storm and the flood, as there were fears of collapsed bridges and flooded towns, as word came of loss and death, when people needed to know where to get drinking water or a fire truck ride to St. James, it was Kevin Doran who told them, and encouraged them, and inspired him.

He was the lone means of public communication. A literal voice in the dark for marooned families clustered around transistor radios. He relayed messages from the authorities, he relayed messages between relatives, he relayed hope and faith.

And he made his place in a region’s heart.

After that, Kevin Doran was somebody.

Somebody loved, respected and admired.

It’s hard to run a small business, and the world isn’t kind to rural radio stations. But he sold the ads and reported the news and interviewed the bigwigs. He teased and kidded, blustered and pontificated, ranted and raved. He poured out his Irish Catholic heart.

For 40 years he was Hornell. A part of its fiber and soul, the soundtrack to a place and its people.

And now he has taken that voice to heaven.

– by Bob Lonsberry © 2015