by Henry Lane Hull
In 1975, Mildred and Dean Loudy brought radio to Kilmarnock with their opening of station WKWI. Obviously, the station was a business venture on their part, but far more importantly their abiding motive was to be of service to the community. In that endeavor they succeeded brilliantly.
Bill Goss later joined them as one of their program hosts, offering both news and musical programs. Bill’s distinctive voice was readily identifiable whenever one turned on the switch and his selection of music was popular across the region. Dean has commented that with his voice, Bill was a natural for working in radio.
Bill grew up on his historic Ante Bellum family farm, “Retirement,” near Ocran, where until a few years ago one still could see cattle grazing in the fields. He joined the Marines and as with many others, remained “a Marine” all his life. Bill’s personality and voice were utterly “can-do.” Nothing phased him and he liked to plunge into everything he undertook, whether it was researching his family genealogy, or caring for his cows, or holding a conversation over the airwaves.
Twenty years ago I was in charge of an event in upper Northumberland County scheduled for a Saturday morning. The previous night a blizzard blew in on us, dropping 16 inches of snow. Early on Saturday morning I called WKWI, knowing Bill was on the air and told him of my dilemma. He replied, “Don’t worry. I’ll take care of it.” Immediately, he interrupted his program and announced that the event was cancelled. Every 15 minutes thereafter he repeated the announcement, alerting people not to come.
When I asked him what the charge would be, he said, “Nothing. That was a public service and that’s what we do.” A father himself, Bill could relate to young people and liked to play music that suited their tastes. He would dedicate songs to individuals on request and if he knew the person, then would add a personal comment. At the end of his program, listeners remembered what Bill had said more than the records he had played.
On the side, Bill was a disc jockey, available for wedding receptions, parties and civic events. In his role as emcee, he made wedding receptions all the more spectacular, with his melodious voice setting the tone, often telling the assemblage what he knew of the bride or groom’s family history, all intermixed with the right music.
In those happy days at the radio station, each of the announcers made his or her own contribution, from Tom Davis’ remarkable birthday comments each morning, to Dorothy and Ron Evans’ program, Dinner by Candlelight, followed after Ron’s death with “Teatime with Dorothy,” in which she greeted dozens of people by name, to Lee Applegate’s references to himself as “Your Old Musical Uncle Lee.”
Dean Loudy best described Bill as being someone who was both happy-go-lucky and uninhibited. Whenever something needed to be said, Bill would say it. He was utterly frank and honest, but always in a kind and pleasant manner. His friends and admirers were legion and he never forgot any detail about any one of them.
In recent years Bill had suffered from a variety of health problems, most noticeably with increasing immobility. He had a ramp built into his home and getting around became an increasing problem. Many of us missed him on the radio and would comment accordingly whenever we got together. He thrived on talk, whether serious or jocular, personal or public and had to have contact with people. His vocation clearly had not been to be a hermit.
Last month Bill died at the V.A. hospital in Richmond. Given his proud Marine Corps background, passing from this world surrounded by fellow veterans would have pleased him. The word “indelible” comes to mind when remembering Bill. His career together with his voice made lasting impressions on many as far as the airwaves would take them. Bob Hope’s theme song, “Thanks for the Memories,” which Bill played many times, now is his own epitaph.
William Stephen “Bill” Goss, January 15, 1947 – February 13, 2018. R.I.P.