I can’t say I listened to Pete Wilson for years.  If I’d known he was on the air then I certainly would have tried to tune in.  If I had known I could stream an archive or download a podcast, although I’m not sure those options were available five years ago,  I would have.  But in 2007 I was a daytime newbie, I needed something to listen to at work, in the background, and I figured Ray Taliaferro and Bill Wattenburg were my nighttime guilty pleasures so maybe the daytime hosts would offer the same mix of entertainment and knowledge.

This was after I’d tried a month of Top 40, easy listening, and that all-news, all-the-time, station.  I tuned in to KGO out of desperation.

I didn’t pay much attention to the morning hosts, except for Len Tillem, the LOYyer, on for 45 minutes beginning at Noon.  But I did notice a change from early morning to an afternoon host whose style was engaging and informative.  I began to turn up the volume and lean in closer to the radio when he was on the air.  The host before him was okay, in the time slot before Len Tillem showed up, but this afternoon guy piqued my interest.  I smiled as I increased the volume, although, when I heard his name, I was confused.

Photo by Oliver Herold

Pete Wilson?  Former Governor of California?  It didn’t seem possible.  Then I looked up his information and realized that, yes, I knew who this guy was.  An anchor on local news.  Likable.  Made more sense than trying to attach his voice and personality to the former Governor.

The morning host always played in the background on my desk radio, at the time his content seemed drier;  it was Pete Wilson I paid attention to when he signed on after Len Tillem and Dr. Dean Edell.  It’s difficult to really listen while at work, I missed some good callers and topics when trying to get a job done.  But Pete Wilson stood out in my work day.  There was something about him that made you want to hear what he had to say.  He helped the afternoon fly by.

One afternoon Pete cut the topic and told his listeners he wanted to do something he usually does not do, talk about himself and his fears.  He dedicated a portion of his last hour to discussing something on his mind.  He was going into a scheduled surgery the next day and, for some reason, this time he was scared.  He said he always had  jitters before surgery, he’d had surgery on his hip one time before about ten years earlier, but there was something nagging and worrying him about this one.  He couldn’t explain what it was.  It felt different this time.  And he wanted to talk about it.

Callers assured him it’s normal to be fearful.  They shared their stories with him.  He laughed and commiserated with every one of them.  I felt that he was able to shake off some of his anxieties over it.  It was a moment in time over the airwaves, humanity helping one another through uncertain times.  It stood out.

He was not on-air Friday, July 20, 2007, the day of his hip surgery.  I missed him.

It’s always a wonderful feeling to wake up on a weekend.  You stretch, make coffee, turn on the tv and lounge on the couch while sipping caffeine from your favorite cup.

It didn’t register at first.  The news media announced the death of Pete Wilson.  I thought, oh my god, the former Governor of California has died.  I could see his face and kept thinking how, at his age, it seemed an early death.  But what they said next chilled me to the bone.  Pete Wilson had died of a massive heart attack while undergoing surgery for hip replacement.

My Pete Wilson?  From KGO?  There is a vulnerable moment when hearing this type of news.  If it can happen to him, it can happen to anyone.  What does it all mean?  Then the feeling of loss creeps in.  A great loss.  An unexpected impact of emotion for someone I never knew.  Genuine emotion, that flows from the heart to the universe beyond.  Please, take care of our Pete, who or whatever is out there.  A hole remains where his energy used to be.  An energy that cannot go unnoticed in the infinity of spirit.

I missed him even more as callers remembered Pete Wilson on the Monday after his death.  His pirate talk, his curiosity, his love of debate.  There was so much more to this man than I’d experienced in the few months I’d listened to him on KGO.  I wish I could have heard the Pete Wilson that everyone remembers.  But I’m honored to have heard him for the short time I did.  He was noticed and made a difference.  Isn’t that, after all, what we all want out of life?


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