Long-Time WLW-AM Newsman Bill Ridenour Dies Of COVID-19

May 7, 2020

Longtime WLW-AM morning news anchor Bill Ridenour died Sunday in a Northern Kentucky nursing home from COVID-19. He was 94.

"Bill was an absolute gem. He was a solid, serious newsman and at the same time a very enjoyable, affable human being. I'm quite sure he's taking notes through the Pearly Gates," says WLWT-TV reporter John London.

Ridenour was the news director who hired London as a reporter in the 1970s, when the radio and TV stations had the same owner and a combined WLW radio/TV news staff. He also hired sports reporter-producer Bill "Seg" Dennison in the late 1970s, Dennison says.

A World War II veteran, Ridenour served in the United States Navy aboard a sub chaser, according to his obituary.

Before joining WLW, Ridenour was a DJ in Akron and possibly other towns, says Jim LaBarbara, who worked at WLW-AM from 1969 to 1983. Ridenour sometimes did newscasts on LaBarbara's afternoon show in the station's Fourth Street studios downtown.

"He was absolutely a wonderful guy. Very professional and very trustworthy," LaBaraba says.

Ridenour loved to dance. After the death of his wife, Ada, Bill and long-time companion Glenna Savage would attend LaBarbara's oldies dances at Dante's restaurant on Cincinnati's West Side, LaBarbara says.

Ridenour had an "easy-going manner," says WLW-AM news colleague Brian Combs. "In a business packed with pressure and deadlines, his demeanor never changed. He was always kind and even tempered. He was a man of great faith in God and I can’t remember him ever having a bad word to say about anyone. He was so smooth on the air and was able to make an incredibly difficult job look easy.

"The longevity of his career is proof of his ability to adapt to changing times and technology. One of the great honors of my career was when he asked me to introduce him at his induction to the AP Hall of Fame after his retirement in 1998," Combs says.

Ridenour "assembled a fine staff and injected a sense of purpose and fun into the daily labor. Bill exemplified that by working with honesty, humanity and a sense of purpose larger than oneself. I can also tell you he was fiercely loyal to his people," London says.

"He made the newsroom hum. He was in his element in a newsroom and lead by example. He rolled up his sleeves and did whatever needed to be done.

"Bill was a reliable guiding hand," London says. "I have worked for a number of wonderful news directors but he is right there at the top as someone who never lost his sense of human consideration in pursuit of the day's news. Getting it right was important to him, in the sense of news gathering as well as interacting with others."

"When I started at WLW at 23 in 1983, I was in awe of working with names like Ridenour and Don Webb," says former WLW-AM reporter Bill Tonnis. "Despite me being young and lacking experience, Bill accepted me and was always a fatherly figure. He made me feel like I was fully accepted and I felt I could confide in him.

"Sadly when he retired, the company did nothing to mark his retirement. I remember the day he left. No fanfare, just said he'd see us and walked out. He was really a wonderful man," says Tonnis, a music minister at Our Lady of the Visitation Catholic Church in Mack.

Ridenour retired from WLW-AM in 1998. He was inducted into the Radio/Television Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 1999.

No services are planned. A memorial gathering may be held at a later date.