Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Happy 90th

Buddy Belote at his 90th
I went to my friend, Buddy Belote's 90th birthday party last Sunday. How rare an event like that would have been considered only a decade or so ago. It's still very special when a person reaches that milestone in reasonably good health and is honored by his family and friends.

But in Buddy's case, longevity was the least of his many accomplishments. I first met him in 1961 when he was assigned as the engineer on my first radio show at WTOP in Washington.

Unlike most engineers, whose talents are generally limited to technical matters with usually very little interest in music and the arts, Buddy was an accomplished musician as well as one of the foremost amateur photographers in Washington. I think he had even composed a couple of symphonies.

It was no surprise that all of us who did music shows on the station at the time wanted Buddy to produce our shows.

Through no effort of his own, other than his quiet competence, he became the unofficial leader of all the announcers and engineers at the station. If you had a problem and needed advice, he was the one you just naturally went to. I heard him referred to one time as the WTOP staff's “mother.”

Buddy's and my work schedules were such that for several years our coffee breaks occurred at the same time each morning. Since he could converse on so many different subjects, that was usually one of the highlights of my workday.

I say usually.

Ed and Buddy  speaking to a Washington Radio Club
Because there came a time when he became focused almost totally on the sport of swimming. A sport that tended to make my eyes glaze over. Now there was a perfectly logical reason for this since his three young daughters had all shown an interest as well as more than a little talent in the sport.

Buddy was the informal “mother” of the WTOP staff, but at home he was the official father....and whatever his daughters were interested in, he and his wife Florence were interested in.......finding the best pool with the best equipment and the best coach in the area.

I went to work for a competing station in late 1969 and I remember the last time I had coffee with him in the station cafeteria. We reminisced about those shows we did together in in the early 60's and the many changes we had seen since then.........

and “by the way,” he said, “you should have seen my little one, Melissa, swimming the other night.....she was spectacular.”

I didn't see Buddy for a couple of years after that, but I did hear more about Melissa......on TV and the newspapers.

She became America's sweetheart , who at 15 years of age,  won three Gold Medals  at the 1972 Olympic Games.