The Northern Neck long has had a special relationship with Baltimore, going back to the days of the steamboats. The exchange between the two localities has been, and remains, constant.
In our time one of the city’s greatest exports to the Northern Neck, albeit initially via a twenty-year stint at a local radio station in Harrisonburg, has been Dennis Burchill, who for the past 12 years has been the general manager of Radio Station WKWI in Kilmarnock.
On Monday, Dennis died after a period in which he faced several health concerns. In the time he was with us, he had become a major player in the life of the lower Northern Neck, vigorously using his bully pulpit to promote all that was good about our area. His morning radio program was always delightful, filled with useful news, both quite serious and often equally humorous.
Following in the tradition established nearly a half-century ago by the station’s founders, Mildred and Dean Loudy, Dennis wanted the radio to be an integral part of the community as a whole. Each morning his pithy comments were reminiscent of those that Dean put forth during his many years at the helm.
Dennis worked enthusiastically with the Lancaster by the Bay Chamber of Commerce to support our local businesses and institutions in being of service to the full spectrum of residents and visitors. In describing various charitable events, he gave his all to help to make them successful, and he wanted any tourists who were listening to WKWI to know that we valued their presence among us.
In his morning program, Dennis combined being both entertaining and informative. His sense of humor came across along with his serious effort to help listeners to become abreast of what they needed to know to be knowledgeable and productive citizens. He particularly enjoyed interviewing sponsors of charitable events, making sure that their contributions reaped fulsome rewards.
In every program, the highlight of Dennis’s humor came promptly at 7:15, when he covered the day’s birthdays and anniversaries. His comments on what he liked and disliked on such-and-such a special day were hilarious. In the course of a year by following his remarks, the listeners came to know all of his culinary and musical tastes, and he focused on his dislikes as well.
His reviews of the celebrity birthdays were sage and wry, and when he came to the local celebrities, he gave credit whenever he could to what the individuals had done for the community.
The Boys & Girls Club of the Northern Neck was one of Dennis’s special interests. In that arena, he showed how deeply he cared about making life beneficial and happy for the children in our midst. Dennis could not be a bystander; he had to be out there, always in the midst of what was happening, to help to make the community thrive. In an interview five years ago in The Local Scoop, he said that what he liked about working in local radio was being able to address community issues.
Dennis was a native of Baltimore, who came to live in the Middle Peninsula and to work in the Northern Neck. He had learned how to be on the air as a student at the Baltimore School of Broadcasting. Last year, the Virginia Association of Broadcasters awarded Dennis the “Broadcaster of the Year” award, a richly deserved honor.
Radio was both Dennis’s profession and his life. He used it as dictated by his conscience to advance the betterment of the world around him, and that will be his epitaph.
Dennis Wayne Burchill, March 12, 1957 – November 7, 2022. R.I.P.