Tuesday, Jan 16, 2018
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Deaths

Harvey Steele (1957-2017)

Half of popular broadcast partners tireless champ for organ donation 

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    Harvey Steele had two liver transplants in 1997, and he became a tireless crusader for the cause of organ donation.

    KARA STEELE

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    Walleye fan Tracy Meyers of Wauseon stands during a moment of silence for Harvey Steele prior to a hockey game Friday at the Huntington Center. Mr. Steele was a big Walleye fan.

    BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH

Standing in front of the WKKO-FM, 99.9, microphone Friday morning was “the hardest thing” Gary Shores said he has ever done in decades of radio broadcasting.

Mr. Shores publicly announced the death of longtime K-100 on-air partner and friend Harvey Steele to listeners of their longtime top-rated morning show, Shores and Steele.

“We’ve been together for 23 years as a very successful team in Toledo,” Mr. Shores later told The Blade. “It’s like losing a little brother.”

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Harvey Steele had two liver transplants in 1997, and he became a tireless crusader for the cause of organ donation.

KARA STEELE Enlarge

Mr. Steele, 60, of Sylvania, died at about 6:24 a.m. Thursday, after he was taken to Flower Hospital on Saturday with diabetic ketoacidosis, a complication of diabetes in which the body is not producing enough insulin, with a blood-sugar level above 1,000, said his daughter, Kara Steele.

While Mr. Steele’s blood sugars were stabilized, “his body was probably so tired, he had been through a lot medically in his life,” she said.

Mr. Steele had two liver transplants within a week of each other in 1997 at Cleveland Clinic after he unknowingly contracted hepatitis C from a blood transfusion in 1985.

The transplant not only saved his life, it changed it.

Mr. Steele became a tireless on-air crusader for the cause of organ donation and other charities. That commitment continued off the air as well, said London Mitchell, Cumulus Media Toledo’s News Director, who has been part of the Shores and Steele morning drive-time show since taking over for K-100’s top-rated Mitch and Mary Beth in 2000.

“Very often he would do a remote broadcast for a benefit and never charge for his time there,” Mr. Mitchell said. “If you don’t give back to the community, you’re not really doing the job [of a radio broadcaster]. It’s more than just being on the air and talking in the microphone. It’s connecting with the community and Harvey did that really well.”

In recognition of Shores and Steele’s 20th year together and all of their charitable work, Toledo City Council voted 12-0 to pass a proclamation in their honor in October, 2014.

In 2016, Mr. Steele received the National Donor Memorial Award for Excellence in Richmond, Va., for his efforts in promoting the cause of organ donation.

Scott Sands, senior vice president of programming for I Heart Radio’s cluster of Toledo stations, said he remembers talking with Mr. Steele at Toledo Walleye hockey games about Mr. Sands’ son, now 11, who had a liver transplant at 11 months old.

“We never talked shop,” Mr. Sands said. “Harvey always made a point of asking how he was doing. I think that’s a reflection of who he was and what he cared about.

“You look at all the charitable things he has been able to do with K-100, and I hope that encourages someone who is not a donor to register in Harvey’s memory and give a family another 20 years or longer by becoming an organ donor.”

Mr. Steele’s commitment to organ donation also convinced his daughter to join Life Connection of Ohio as Director of Community Services.

But as a dad, she said, Mr. Steele “was the best.”

“I was introduced to hockey by him,” Miss Steele said. “I grew up in the the old Sports Arena when we went to Toledo Storm games, and we have season tickets to the Walleye. He was so passionate [about the games]. He would always rile up the other team. They would look back at him, ‘Who are you, little man, yelling those things at us?’ But the fans around us got a kick out of it.”

The Toledo Walleye had a moment of silence during Friday’s game in honor of Mr. Steele.

Born March 13, 1957 in Evanston, Ill., to Sidney and Harriett Steele, Mr. Steele grew up wanting to be on the radio despite having a speech impediment: a lisp known as sibilants s. With help from his father, Mr. Steele built a low-power, licensed radio station in his room — its call letters were WOW — and graduated from Illinois State University in 1979 with a degree in mass communications while working at local radio stations.

In May, 1981, Mr. Steele moved to Toledo to broadcast the noon-to-3 shift on WTOD-AM, Toledo’s only country station at the time, replacing Mr. Shores as production director.

Mr. Steele would join Mr. Shores at K-100 13 years later for an afternoon slot at the suggestion of the station’s general manager, who noticed a natural chemistry between the friends who occasionally broadcast together for station remotes.

Someone in the advertising business once described the Shores and Steele pairing as that of “two guys sitting in a garage working on their car and drinking beer,” Mr. Shores would tell The Blade.

“He was saying it negatively,” he said, but Mr. Shores and Mr. Steele thought it was the perfect description.

In 1995 the Country Music Association named Mr. Shores and Mr. Steele its Broadcast Personalities of the Year in a medium-sized market.

Mr. Shores and Mr. Steele dominated the ratings as K-100’s afternoon show, and did the same when they moved to mornings; at one point, K-100 was the top-rated station for 78 out of 79 ratings books counting their six-year run in the afternoon.

“That was sort of our big challenge … the prime-time of radio, the morning drive slot,” Mr. Steele told The Blade in the 2014 profile. “Now we’re the longest-running morning show in Toledo.”

But without his partner, Mr. Shores is not sure what will happen next.

He was scheduled for a vacation this week and will take off all of next week, he said. Jan. 8 is the soonest he’ll be back on the air from 5 to 10 a.m.

Mr. Shores said he has not decided between going solo in the mornings, partnering with someone else, or even retiring from radio.

But he does know one thing about the future of the show: “Shores and Steele is over.”

Mr. Steele is survived by his daughters, Kara Steele and Allison Kuhr; his sister, Janet Twigg, and his former wife, Mary Beth Steele.

A public celebration of Mr. Steele’s life scheduled from noon to 8 p.m. Wednesday at Walker Funeral Home, 5155 W. Sylvania Ave.

The family suggests tributes to The Harvey J. Steele Memorial Fund through the Toledo Community Foundation.

Contact Kirk Baird at kbaird@theblade.com or 419-724-6734.

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