Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Nolan, the Call, and the Note

By now you know former Newswatch 16 anchor Nolan Johannes died Monday.  He was 81.

There are a couple of Nolan stories I'd pass along today, proof of what a nice man he was.

My first time anchoring at WNEP was Christmas Day 1998.  Even though I had anchored down the street dozens of times, I was terrified.  I had been off the air for a few years, concentrating on being a producer.  Kim and Tom both wanted the day off.  They told the news director at the time that I'd be willing, and he said yes.

It wasn't my best day.  My voice was thin and tight.  I flew through the copy way too fast.  Even though there was a great sense of relief when the broadcast ended, I wasn't feeling great.  I walked back in to the newsroom.  The phone was ringing.  I assumed, at best, it was a disappointed viewer, or at worst, an angry manager.

It was Nolan.

He congratulated me on my work, and even noticed I tried to smile.  Regular viewers will know I'm not a natural smiler.

The call meant the world to me, and it made for a very nice start to Christmas morning.

Back in the day, Nolan used to record a "This Day in History" segment for the Saturday morning broadcast.  I used to write it, and it was a major tickle to hear a legend read my copy.    When Nolan stepped aside several years ago, he left me a note.  It read, in part, "My wife Marian and I so enjoy Andy's brand of writing and news delivery.  We'll be watching."

It meant the world to me, part two.  Obviously, I still have the note. I've received a lot of awards over the years.  A note, an endorsement, from Nolan trumps them all.

Nolan made occasional trips to the newsroom after he retired.  It was always the highlight of the day.  Offices emptied.  Work stopped.  Everyone wanted to say hello, and Nolan had a kind word for everyone.

Nolan started anchoring at WNEP while I was in college.  I remember thinking he was an odd choice to replace Gary Essex.  They were two very different people.  As Mike Stevens noted in his Monday evening piece, Nolan did not have a big news background.  What he did have was warmth and the ability to connect with people.  It was genuine, not an act.  On and off the air, the same very nice man.  We all pale in comparison.

Nolan was a gentleman and a class act.  I'm glad I knew him.