Saying Goodbye is Never Easy
We've all lost someone we love, someone very important to us. Your heart breaks as you try to understand why. It all seems very surreal. This happened to me on Sunday, I received a short and apologetic message letting me know that a good friend and dear soul had passed away suddenly earlier that morning. I remember feeling as if the air had been pulled out of me, tears quickly followed.
His name was Keith Alan Austin and he had been on the air in Meadville, Pa. for more than 30 years. I worked with Keith from 1989 until 1995 on what was then WZPR, THE Country Station in Northwest Pennsylvania. He was there the 1st time I ever opened a mic to talk professionally. I was scared to death and I'm pretty sure my hands were shaking, but he was calm and said "You'll be fine, you know what you're doing". I wasn't so sure, but that was Keith, he was supportive and you always knew he was right there for you.
I worked mid-days (10-3) and he followed me in the afternoons (3-7). We worked along side each other at events, jokingly fought for time in the only production room for the entire station, and shared the stage as we welcomed many artists to the Crawford County area. I remember meeting Eddie Rabbitt, Patty Loveless, and Aaron Tippin when we were emceeing a local show and when I left the bus after meeting Aaron, Keith kidded me for days that I had a crush on Aaron (I denied it of course, told him to stop being silly, but he was right). When I signed autographs alongside Garth Brooks at the Crawford County Fair, I couldn't wait to tell Keith, he missed the show as he was still back at the studio working and this was before cell phones, selfies, and hashtags.
Keith was there for me in so many ways, he was patient with me as I made many newcomer mistakes and he taught me a lot of things including how to handle it when people would call up and say that they hated me because I didn't play a song at the exact time they wanted. You have to have a tough skin on some days, no matter the business you're in.
He was kind, gentle, funny, and compassionate with a great voice. He rallied around so many causes, lending his time and talents to help wherever and whenever he could, even if it was simply spreading the word on his show. He would have been a big hit here in the Hudson Valley, I just know it. You would have loved him.
He was right there when I lost my son and he never forgot when it was Trevor's day. I can't believe he's gone. The world is a sadder place today without him. I am forever grateful that he was in my life. Thank you Keith for sharing your talents with the world and your friendship with me. This is for you my dear friend, may you rest in peace.