Friday afternoon, country music listeners who tuned in to WKKO-FM (99.9) may have noticed that a familiar voice was missing.
After 21 years on Toledo radio, Cliff Smithers is off the air, logging his final shift from 3 to 7 p.m. Thursday.
It wasn't another market that drew him away. For him, it was a much more powerful force. He's committing himself to the ministry, hoping to lead an established fundamental Baptist church, or better yet, start one of his own.
"A lot of critics will say to me, ‘What, are you crazy?' But when you feel God's calling in your life, you can't ignore that. I'm trusting that God will take care of me. That's what faith is all about," Smithers said.
In many ways, he's taking his life full circle. Before going on the air for the first time on WTOD, he was the youth pastor/associate pastor at Toledo Baptist Temple. He's honoring a commitment to his family and to himself. Before he was born, his mother and father were told they could not have children because of his father's alcoholism. His father promised he would turn his life around if he had a child.
"He kept that promise. He was a successful businessman and a deacon at his church. My mom told me I was sent into this world for a purpose, and I haven't forgotten that," Smithers said.
Despite his faith, that doesn't mean he's not scared about the future.
"Tomorrow morning, I'll get out of bed and get on my hands and knees and start praying," he said with his familiar hearty laugh. "Right now I'm trying to raise support to start a new ministry. It won't be anywhere in the Toledo area. There are pretty strong churches around here. I'm thinking probably southern Ohio."
He worked at WKKO, popularly called K100, part-time from his first days in radio, but he became a full-time on-air personality in 1999, roughly around the time the country station began its domination of the local radio scene.
The same honesty that's drawing him into the ministry also made him a hit with listeners.
"I was just me, and I think people related to that. People would call me up and say they'd just want to hear me laugh. That wasn't fake. I like to laugh and people connected with me because they knew I wasn't being fake."
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