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Sports Commentary 12/10/12

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His tribute to Arnold Dean


AN IMPORTANT VOICE GOES SILENT

There are few people I have been closer to professionally, probably no one I will be forever more closely linked to, than Arnold Dean. In many ways the history of my life was written by Arnold Dean. Early Saturday afternoon, while I was out of state, I recieved a call from another long time colleague, Joe D’Ambrosio, informing me that Arnold had passed away that morning at age 82. The call came within an hour of the most critical anniversary of my career. On December 5th, 1980, as I was finishing my morning shift at my previous radio station, I recieved a call from Arnold asking if I could stop by WTIC after I got out of work. Knowing the job of Bob Steele’s sportscaster was open I suspected I was just going in for an interview. It was a Friday morning and I was so taken aback when the first words from operations manager Tom Barsanti were to offer me the job that I asked if I could take the weekend to think about it. As I prepared to leave the station Arnold gave me the advice that would lay out the path to the rest of my life, “If you feel in two years this isn’t a good fit, it will never hurt you to have two years at WTIC on your resume.” Two years later, as I was floundering in my personal life, so consumed by my work I was headed for early burnout, I met Laurel Palmer of Andover. After a couple of evenings out with Arnold and the love of his life, Helen, Arnold took me aside. “Don’t let this one get away”, he advised me, “She completes you.” Arnold was a member of our wedding party, I’ve been complete ever since. When the tragedy of losing a child finally reached the breaking point, where someone had to become the sounding board, it was to Arnold Dean that I turned. Over the phone, for 45 minutes, he listened to me sound off in anger. Some of what you say at times like that can be hurtful, but it was, perhaps, the most helpful 45 minutes of my life. Arnold never spoke of it to anyone, nor, until now, did I. I watched Arnold’s beautiful children, Arnie, Mary and Richie, grow into adulthood. He watched Abby grow up. Amazingly, through it all, I never felt like I knew Arnold Dean better than anyone else, because everyone who ever tuned into his variety of shows on Channel 3 and WTIC radio got the real Arnold Dean. As you heard him on the air, always pleasant, always insightful, an oasis in an era when shock radio was becoming all the rage, was as he was. The next door neighbor you always wish you had, the grandfather you always wished for for your kids. Arnold Dean started one of the longest running radio shows in Connecticut history, WTIC Sportstalk, just one year after the Whalers moved into the Hartford Civic Center, three years before the formation of the Big East. On his watch UConn football went to division I-A and Gampel Pavilion and Rentschler Field were built. Both UConn basketball teams elevated to elite status nationally and the University of Hartford and Central Connecticut moved up to division I. The Hellions, Hellcats, Pride, Lobsters, Wolves, Colonials, Fox Force and Aetna World Cup all came and went, the Whalers moved to Raleigh and Hartford became an American Hockey League market. Through it all, while others among us were loud and brash, trying to move things in directions we chose, Arnold was always a voice of reason, with a remarkable ability to see everything with amazing clarity. When Arnold celebrated his 50th anniversary in broadcasting his hometown newspaper in Courtland, New York wrote a tribute piece about him. He called me to thank me for all the wonderful things I said about him in the article. “Arnold”, I said incredulously, “Do you think I just made all that stuff up? I just told them the truth about you.” For 32 years Arnold Dean as been like a night light to me, and this morning I know this to be true. It’s a light that will never stop burning. Arnold Dean will always be part of me. I’m Scott Gray.

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