Phil Blair, whose voice greeted listeners of KEDO radio and other local stations each weekday morning, died Thursday. He was 43.
Blair’s wife, Suzanne Blair, said her husband died in his sleep.
“It was out of the blue,” she said.
For five years, Blair served as the news director for Bicoastal Media’s five Cowlitz County radio stations and hosted the “KEDO in the Morning” program.
“He always felt like he was the neighbor sharing the news with the rest of his friends in Cowlitz County,” Suzanne Blair said. “He had a way of gathering information and expressing it just so that it would get the message across.”
Blair grew up in Kelso, where even as a kid people called him “the source” because “if anybody knew anything in the neighborhood, that was him,” Suzanne Blair said.
He attended Butler Acres Elementary, Coweeman Middle School and graduated from Kelso High.
Blair met his wife at Central Washington University, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in communications. After college he worked as a production manager for a PBS television station in Yakima, then at CBS affiliates in Twin Falls, Idaho, and the Tri-Cities.
At PBS, the American Bar Association recognized his work on a documentary about William O. Douglas, the longest-serving justice in the history of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Suzanne Blair said her husband always liked working behind the scenes in television and shied away from the spotlight. But radio offered just enough anonymity that Blair decided to start broadcasting in the early part of the decade. He spent a few years at KLOG radio in Cowlitz County, then became the news director for Bicoastal Media’s stations — The Peak, KBAM, KEDO, Magic 94.5 and Rocket 107.
He left for work each weekday night around 10 p.m. and scanned news wires and broadcast news programs for his morning newscast. “By five in the morning he would start prepping himself for the morning show,” Suzanne Blair said.
His taped newscasts were broadcast on all five local stations, she said.
Vern Foster, a sports announcer and advertising salesman for KEDO, said the station’s news programming had been fizzling until Blair came along.
“Phil brought all that back,” Foster said. “He worked long hours. He worked very long hours.”
“That’s the thing about his work,” Suzanne Blair said. “He didn’t just want to put in eight hours and call it good. He always had a high expectation for himself.”
Blair could be hard on himself and self-conscious about his radio voice, she said. “He always wanted to be better,” she said. “He wanted to have a deep announcer’s voice.”
But, Suzanne Blair said, her husband’s everyman appeal is what endeared him to his listeners. “The show wasn’t about him. It was for his audience,” she said. “Just Phil. Here’s the news.”
Blair is survived by his three children, Jacqueline, 18, Daniel, 15, and Abigail, 11, and a granddaughter, Ella, who is nearly 2.