The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
‘Saddened to the core’ over loss of Brian Strobel
BY RUSTY DENNEN
To most in the Fredericksburg area, Brian Strobel was the satin voice on WFLS radio’s morning show whose quirky “Dooby Doo” ditty awakened them for 30 years.
To Salvation Army Capt. Jamie Satterlee, Strobel was the driving force behind the agency’s shoe fund, helping raise an estimated $1 million over the years.
“He Really did care”
Photo gallery: Brian Strobel: Fredericksburg radio icon
Rob Hedelt: FLS columnist remembers his friend
Ed Jones: ‘We will all miss our dear friend’
2008 related story: Friends, fans mark Strobel’s last day on WFLS
2007 letter: Brian Strobel always knew what was important–people
To his colleagues at WFLS radio, the diminutive, mustachioed Strobel was a regular guy with a passion for his craft and his community.
In a business full of people with big egos, Strobel was an icon who was not full of himself.
“He was professional and caring,” WFLS 93.3 News Director Frank Hammon said. “What you saw was what you got.”
Strobel, whose radio career spanned 40 years, died Wednesday after being hit by a vehicle while walking a dog. He was 64.
The Spotsylvania County Sheriff’s Office said Strobel was well off the road in the Kingswood subdivision in Spotsylvania about 4:50 p.m. when he was struck by an out- of-control Nissan pickup. Sheriff’s spokesman Mike Harvey said the truck was heading south on Kingswood Boulevard near Harris Mill Court when it veered to the right, striking a mailbox and Strobel.
Harvey said the 42-year- old driver immediately called 911, and a witness performed CPR until emergency workers arrived about seven minutes later. Strobel was pronounced dead at 5:01 p.m. at the scene.
No charges had been filed Thursday, and Harvey said police are still investigating the accident.
According to a December 2007 Free Lance–Star profile, Strobel dreamed of a career in radio even before his voice matured into the deep baritone that became his trademark.
He broadcast a morning radio show from the attic of his boyhood home in Hornell, N.Y., when he was 8 years old.
During high school he landed a job at a tiny local AM radio station, where he did everything—sweeping halls, emptying wastebaskets, playing records and delivering news and commercials.
After graduation, Strobel went to Syracuse University, earning a dual degree in television and radio communications and advertising.
About that time, he saw an ad for a job at WFLS.
J. William Poole, the station’s former general manager, remembers the young man he hired in 1977.
“We were looking for a morning man. I was impressed with his ability to speak; he had a good voice and he was energetic.”
Poole said Thursday that Strobel quickly made an impression.
“He talked about what was going on in the community, and he had a chemistry with [colleague] John Allen. The two of them made that show go.”
Each weekday, Strobel would get up at 3 a.m., arrive at the station at 4, sign on at 5 and belt out his “Dooby Doo” wake-up song at 6:05, pointing out local spots such as Passapatanzy in King George County.
“That morning show was the highest-rated show in our market. That was due, in whole or in part, to Brian and John,” Poole said.
Strobel was the station’s third, and longest-lasting, morning man in a business where stellar talent doesn’t tend to stay in one place for long.
Poole got Strobel, and WFLS-which is owned by The Free Lance-Star Publishing Co.,-connected with the Salvation Army. Poole was on the organization’s board of directors, and heard about a Richmond radio station doing a shoe-fund drive, thinking it would be a good cause to promote here.
“Brian took the reins, and he did most of the promotion on the air,” Poole said. Launched in 1980, the campaign quickly caught on.
“He [Strobel] was 100 percent invested in the mission of the Salvation Army. This is a great loss for us; we are saddened to the core,” said the Salvation Army’s Satterlee. “We’ve lost a warrior in the fight. I don’t think you can replace Brian Strobel.”
She said the shoe fund raised more than $1 million during his tenure, which lasted through 2007, providing about 33,500 pairs of shoes for needy children.
“He was committed to the fullest level,” she said. “He was here multiple times each week; he was just here Wednesday,” hours before his death.
“We’re in the middle of a building campaign, and he was excited about that,” she said. “He wanted to narrate a video for donors. It was typical Brian Strobel—he was cracking jokes. Even through his illness, he was laughing.”
Strobel was battling colon cancer, and just two days before his death had finished a book about his experiences.
Strobel told friends that, if he should die, he wanted a memorial service at the Salvation Army church on Lafayette Boulevard.
Along with the shoe fund, Strobel helped as a crisis-center counselor, a hot-line volunteer and a big brother with Rappahannock Big Brothers Big Sisters.
Sheila Quinn, Strobel’s partner on the show for 15 years, remembers Strobel as a loyal and reliable pro.
“I loved him. Brian and I had so much fun on the air. Every morning when I went to work, he was always happy and ready to start the day. He was never grouchy, and I did the same for him.”
Strobel was the occasional foil for on-air jokes by WFLS colleagues.
News Director Hammon recalled one morning when Quinn and another announcer inserted a Johnny Carson impersonation into one of Strobel’s “Dooby Doo” sessions. Hammon laughed, “They took his tape and doctored it.” Strobel took it in stride.
For a 1981 story about police composite sketches, Strobel agreed to lend his “mug shot” to be used as a perpetrator description for a police sketch artist. The result, to the delight of Free Lance–Star readers, was dead-on, though somewhat surly.
The morning man was late once in his career. He overslept, and raced from his home a block away to the station door. On an other occasion, he lost track of time and the 9 a.m. news didn’t happen that day.
For the past few years, Strobel had worked part-time on Thunder 104.5, where he presided over the “30 Years in the Country” program.
“I worked with Brian for nearly 14 years as his supervisor at WFLS and with him the past few years at Thunder. Over that period he was the same person on the air, off the air, in personal appearances, and in his community work. His ability to maintain that consistency not only made him a complete air personality but a complete friend as well. I will miss him dearly.”
- Jon Reed
Lee Woolf, a former Free Lance–Star sports editor and friend of 35 years, said one of Strobel’s gifts was an innate thirst for knowledge.
“Whether the topic was current events, sports, history, religion, finance or whatever, Brian always contributed thoughtful in sights,” he said.
“In one of my last conversations with him, Brian had just finished reading a biography of George Washington, and we had a nice chat about American history and the Founding Fathers.”
Mike Vincent, another former colleague, said: “Brian was the morning guy and I was the afternoon guy. He gave every effort, nothing less than 1,000 percent. You never heard anybody talk negatively about him.”
Free Lance–Star Publisher Nick Cadwallender said of Strobel: “Brian’s great gift was connecting with people on-air and in person. He was a man of deep compassion. For 30 years, his genuine interest in everyone he met left them feeling better about themselves. His friends and family at WFLS and The Free Lance–Star will miss him terribly.”
After logging 30 years on the morning show, Strobel retired from WFLS on Dec. 31, 2007.
His final words: “You listeners are the best in the world. You’ve been just like family to me. I love all of you. Thanks for listening.”
Strobel is survived by his wife, Jennifer, and sons Nathan and Noah.
Funeral arrangements were incomplete as of Thursday.
Rusty Dennen: 540/374-5431 firstname.lastname@example.org