Rarely does one encounter such a man as Hal Raymond. Mr. Nettleship, to be more precise, for that is how I knew him before 1983, the year I joined him in working at WSBA Radio. It is a tribute to Hal's humility that I didn't know they were one and the same guy.
Indeed, I was quite surprised some 22 years ago to learn that the polite, often shy man I had met a number of times in my childhood years was, in fact, someone I had idolized since grammar school. Could it be that Kevin, Julie, and Kari's dad was the "Morning Mayor?" The phenomenal drive-time DJ that had dominated the radio waves--and my respect--for decades? How had I never discovered that one of the largest legends in my life was also...my neighbor?
The answer to that question is a testament to the kind of man Hal Raymond was. As I near the quarter-century mark in my own career, I can report with some authority that kindness and selflessness are not character traits common to those in the radio business--this reporter included. Yet, such was the very nature of Harold Raymond Nettleship. In fact, I discovered over time that not one person could recall his speaking ill of anyone.
Conversely, Hal was an encourager; he helped lightened one's burden with his quick smile and self-deprecating wit. As a private citizen, Hal volunteered tirelessly for local charitable organizations, and left a legacy that will last for generations.
But most who knew Hal Nettleship weren't aware that he was also Hal Raymond. He didn't "lead" with the fact that he was "radio royalty;" Hal was secure enough in who he was as a person, that he didn't need to be celebrated as a genius. Yet, he was probably more deserving of such acclaim than most anyone I've met "in the business." For, as a radio personality, Hal Raymond was one of the best to ever stand behind a radio microphone; his ratings records will likely never be broken.
Mr. Nettleship--Hal Raymond--died last Monday from the ravages of ALS: Lou Gehrig's disease. Ironically, the cruel malady silenced that magnificent voice months before it claimed Hal's life. But there was nothing further that needed to be said. His wife, children, and grandchildren knew that he loved them: Hal was most generous with his time and affection. His friends needed no further assurance of how the man felt about them. Harold Nettleship always made sure that the needs of others were met first.
We must always learn something from the lives we admire, and I have gleaned much from Hal Raymond's example. He showed me that fame, and the accolades of men, are not something to be grasped or sought after. Hal taught me that my radio accomplishments will quickly fade in the collective memory, but what I do for others, when no one is looking, lasts forever. And I have learned that, although posthumous tributes are nice, they will never replace the act of simply picking up the phone, while one's heroes are still living. I made the mistake of waiting too long to thank Hal Raymond for his enormous influence in my life. That's why I had lunch with my dad after Hal's memorial service on Saturday. Some mistakes you don't make twice.