William R. “Bill” Charles, 69, a genial broadcaster for WTVG-TV and WSPD Radio respected by his colleagues, died Thursday of congestive heart failure at St. Vincent Mercy Medical Center.
Mr. Charles and former WTVG-TV, Channel 13, news anchor Jim Rudes were close friends who began their careers in the early 1950s working at the television station and WSPD Radio, which at that time were owned by Storer Broadcasting Co.
“Bill was one of the most gentle men I have ever known,” Mr. Rudes said. “He was a good interviewer, very fair.
“He was never confrontational. He always got what he was looking for and, I think, treated people with a great deal of respect.”
When Mr. Charles joined Channel 13, it was as a news anchor after graduating in 1953 from Kent State University. In his early years, he handled a variety of assignments, including being sent to cover the Democratic and Republican national conventions in 1968.
“He was a good guy, hardworking and easy to get along with,” said Chase Clements, a former news director and reporter for Channel 13 who recently retired from The Blade.
His friends chided him for years afterward about how his mild manner had somehow drawn a clubbing by police while in Chicago covering the Democratic convention, marked by repeated clashes between police and anti-war protestors.
“They sent him and a camera man there alone,” Mr. Clements said, recalling the days before live reporting via satellites. “The story was breaking so fast, and he had to be in so many places, by the time we got the film back from Chicago it would almost be an historical antidote.”
During the convention, a police officer hit Mr. Charles with a nightstick when he tried to explain he needed to cover the tumult outside the convention.
“My dad was such a meek and mild guy, but he got a billy club in the mouth,” Kim Chessman, his daughter, said. It left a bad bruise on the right side of his jaw and bloody lip, but nothing worse. “When he got home, the other newsmen presented him with a Purple Heart,” she said.
He attended the inauguration of President Nixon the following year, and was photographed in the Oval Office with the president and an area girl whose poster pleading for peace had been the subject of a news story by Mr. Charles.
Shortly thereafter, Mr. Charles became a sales manager at WSPD. In 1979, he returned to Channel 13 to sell advertising and do voiceovers for commercials.
“People called him `the voice,'” said his wife, Cindi. “He had a very distinctive baritone voice.”
He retired in 1993 because of health problems but returned to the airwaves three years ago on WCWA with the Bill Charles show, which was broadcast weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. His last show was about three weeks ago. “He had so many people calling him welcoming him back, it was just overwhelming,” his wife said.
Mr. Charles was a former member of the Downtown Kiwanis Club and past president of the Reynolds Corners Exchange Club. He was a former board member of the Toledo Press Club and Southwest YMCA. He was active in public relations and marketing for the United Way, the local Red Cross, and Boy Scouts.
His first wife, Beverly, died in 1984.
Surviving are his wife, Cindi; daughters, Kim Kaseman, Lisa Charles-Giroux, Susan Jantzen, and Sarah Charles; stepsons, Kevin and Matthew Swan, and four grandchildren.
Services will be at 11 a.m. Wednesday at Little Flower Catholic Church. The body will be in the Walker Funeral Home after 2 p.m. today. The family requests tributes to the Toledo Choral Society, Grace Lutheran Church, Little Flower Church, or the Boy Scouts.
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