Pat Barry, who parlayed his Q102 popularity into a Greater Cincinnati radio and TV career spanning five decades, died of COVID-19 Saturday afternoon, Feb. 20. He was 69.
The Springfield, Ohio, native burst upon WKRQ-FM’s airwaves in 1974, playing Top 40 hits, and became one of the best known TV/radio personalities in town, thanks to his welcoming smile, loyalty to friends and self-deprecating humor.
He liked to joke that he started his career in his hometown "at a really big station – it had 12 pumps!"
Barry, who had been on a ventilator at Christ Hospital all February, also worked for WLWT-TV, WXIX-TV, Fox Sports Ohio, WLW-AM, WKRC-AM, WMOJ-FM, WSAI-AM, WDJO-FM, WNKR-FM/WNKN-FM and Hamilton's old WOKV-FM. He started in radio at Springfield's WIZE-AM (1340) while in high school.
Shortly before his death, Barry was planning to parlay his popularity here into his first political campaign. He had taken out petitions at the Hamilton County Board of Elections to run for Cincinnati mayor, his friends say.
In 1984, after 10 years at Q102 with Jim Fox, Chris O’Brien, Mark Sebastian, Randy Michaels and other raucous rockers, he put on a suit and tie to become WLWT-TV’s primary weatherman at a time when many TV stations used "personalities" instead of meteorologists. Anchors Jerry Springer and Norma Rashid were on the rise for Channel 5, and by 1987 the Springer-Rashid-Barry team was Cincinnati’s top-rated 11 p.m. newscast.
The happy-go-lucky social butterfly seemed to know everyone in town, and often knew what they were doing. (I can’t tell you the number of times he tipped me off to a move about to be made by a TV or radio personality or station.)
Among his closest friends were Reds Hall of Fame catcher Johnny Bench; radio executive Michaels; retired sports anchor Dennis Janson; Nexstar Media executive and former Channel 5 reporter Bina Roy; and former "Q102 Morning Zoo" co-host Jim Fox, who died last May.
His Facebook feed is filled with photos of him with celebrities such as Smokey Robinson, the Temptations, Betty White, comedian Rodney Dangerfield, Let's Make A Deal host Monty Hall, Dodgers manager Tommy LaSorda, Today show weatherman Willard Scott, Boomer Esiason, Cris Collinsworth, Bench and hot dog eating champ Joey Chestnut. It's also a Who's Who of Cincinnati celebrities: Jeff Ruby, Marty and Amanda Brennaman, Chris O'Brien, Wayne "Box" Miller, Jim LaBarbara, David Mann, Mark Mallory, Charlie Luken, Roxanne Qualls, Janson, Rashid, Michaels and former Fox 19 coworkers Tricia Macke, Rob Williams, Regina Carswell Russo and Frank Marzullo.
"His concern for you was always genuine," says Gary Burbank, who met Barry when radio executive Michaels was trying to hire Burbank for a Tampa station before he came to Cincinnati's WLW-AM in 1981.
While doing weather at Channel 5 in 1989, the station attempted to capitalize on his popularity with Live on 5, a weekday talk-variety show with newswoman Toria Tolley Hammill airing live from the Westin Hotel atrium. It was quickly canceled due to the large expense of doing a live remote telecast five days a week.
Barry was replaced by meteorologist Joe Lizura in 1989, but was rehired by WLWT-TV in 1991 to stem sliding ratings. He lost his weather gig again in 1994, to meteorologist Tom Burse, but soon resurfaced doing weather on WXIX-TV weekends and mornings, often working with Macke. He also co-anchored Fox Sports Ohio’s Opening Day parade telecasts with Macke for several years, or did interviews for FSO from Findlay Market before the parade.
Barry also did afternoons on WKRC-AM, and fill-in shifts on sister WLW-AM, when Michaels was a Clear Channel corporate executive. In 2011, he joined Radio One’s "Mojo" (WMOJ-FM), followed by a stint at oldies WDJO-AM in 2014.
"I've worked everywhere else, I thought I'd give these guys a shot," Barry told me when hired by WDJO-AM. He spent four years playing oldies, and then quit to play classic country tunes on WNKR-FM in Dry Ridge and sister WNKN-FM in Middletown.
He left the country music airwaves to do sales for the station. Barry also used his sales talents to raise money for the 2011 Emmy-winning documentary, Ruth Lyons: First Lady of Broadcasting produced by David Ashbrock and Mark Magistrelli. The project might not have been made without Barry's fund raising, which included $5,000 from longtime friend Springer.
He was born Barry Tingley to Lloyd Tingley, a Springfield welder, and Helen Tingley. After his father died in 2004, his mother moved to Cincinnati to be close to Pat. She died in 2012 at age 94.
A "commemoration" issued by his close friends late Saturday said that Barry, though he never married, "had a coterie of female friends and associates who thought of him as a big brother/defender. And he was always more than willing to offer advice and guidance to young women and men who were pursuing broadcasting careers of their own. The industry is replete with Pat Barry mentees."
Barry often spent Christmas and other holidays with Bench, whose three sons called him "Uncle Pat."
"Never have I known anyone who could make me laugh so uncontrollably (and) who was so appreciated by so many people, " Bench said in the friends' commemoration. "When I first met him, he gleefully drew my attention to his vanity license plate: 'Big Kid' it read and he was that and more. Bigger than life and the best friend anyone could ask for. A true professional in every sense of the word. He took life seriously but always leavened it with a lot of laughter. He was my friend, a distinction I share with hundreds of others who felt the same way."
According to the statement, Barry's commitment to WLWT-TV's Ruth Lyons' Children's Fund while at the station "was the most consequential role he ever had" in broadcasting. His friends suggested that memorial contributions be made to the Ruth Lyons' Children's Fund, P.O. Box 59, Cincinnati 45201.
I'll update this post with funeral arrangements or any memorial gatherings or on-air tributes.