Renowned local broadcaster Willard Parr was honored Wednesday by iHeartRadio for his upcoming 60th anniversary on the air.
Parr and longtime coworker Herb Day traveled to iHeartRadio’s Washington Court House studios on Wednesday to participate in an annual webinar for company employees across the country. The webinar originated from Los Angeles, with iHeart CEO Bob Pittman leading the event.
Out of 12,000 employees, Parr was one of just four individuals honored for outstanding achievement during the webinar.
Parr’s 60th anniversary will come July 15, 60 years after WSRW first went on the air, although he said he helped build the station as early as January of that year. At that time it was just on the 1590 AM dial. In fact, Parr’s voice was the first to go out over the airwaves that July day in 1956.
“There’s no one else in the company with 60 years,” said Day.
Parr said Thursday he initially didn’t want to go to the meeting in Court House, but coworker John Barney told him it was mandatory. Parr said he was very surprised when he heard his name mentioned from Los Angeles, honoring him for his service.
He said he has since received emails from New York, Los Angeles, Cincinnati and elsewhere congratulating him.
Parr can still be heard each morning at 8 a.m. Monday through Friday on 1590 AM.
In an earlier interview with The Times-Gazette, Parr recalled that when he conducted the on-air test nearly 60 years ago now, he leaned into a microphone and said, “This is WSRW making an equipment test.” Parr’s co-worker at the Hillsboro Police Department, Tom Daugherty, who had been alerted to the test, called Parr and said, “Hey, I heard you on the air!”
“He was my first listener,” recalled Parr.
Two days later, WSRW launched its first official broadcast day, and for the decades the station dominated local radio as the source for news, interviews, sports and community information.
Parr was a sergeant with the city police department when WSRW’s original owner, Dave Winslow, asked him to become station manager of his new enterprise. Parr agreed, but with the caveat that he could continue working for the police department. For the next nine years, Parr pulled double duty, finally giving up the badge in 1965 to focus full-time on a radio career.
Tom Archibald bought the station in 1959, and Parr soon became a top salesman. In fact, his income from sales far outpaced his salary as a broadcaster, said Parr. As recently as 2006, the station’s owners awarded Parr its “President’s Club” recognition in honor of his strong sales.
Parr, who turned 90 in November, married Ellen Irene Ludwick in 1945, and Irene ran the local Sundry Store for 21 years. Willard and Irene had four children.
After Irene’s death in 1991, Parr married Catherine Joann Ryan, and the two were married 20 years until she passed away. Inducted into the Associated Press Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 2009, Parr said he has no plans to retire.
“I’ll retire when they take me out in that little pine box,” he said.
Reach Gary Abernathy at 937-393-3456 or on Twitter @abernathygary.