I had met L.A. Tarone once in my life.
About six weeks ago, I was at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia for a doctor visit when WILK’s Sue Henry, a friend and former college mentor of mine, asked if I’d go visit him.
I had heard about L.A. I had listened to him on the radio as so many of us have, and I felt like I knew him but I was petrified. I knew he had lung cancer. I knew he went to my alma mater, King’s College. And I knew he was a revered person in the world of Northeastern Pennsylvania media.
So, I asked Sue if she would let him know I would be visiting. And after I received the green light, I eagerly finished breakfast with my mom and sister and set out to find him. His room was on the first floor of the big hospital — unfortunately, I know my way around the place.
I knocked on the door and I heard “Melanie!”
Suddenly, everything I had feared vanished.
A friend of mine, Kaitlin Adams, said L.A. had a habit of doing that — putting the people around him at ease. During her collegiate years, Kaitlin worked an internship at WYLN where L.A. was the news director. She had been “an onlooker” of L.A.’s career for years, since they are both from the Hazleton area.
“He made me feel like I was part of the team,” Kaitlin recalled.
“He was a pillar (of news),” she added, noting she cried when she heard about his death.
She said L.A. didn’t know it, but the time she spent working under him as his intern served as “an inspiration.”
Back to my encounter at Fox Chase:
L.A. and I talked for a good 20 minutes about everything from our cancer diagnoses to politics. He was listening to Fox News as he sat reading the Philadelphia Inquirer.
L.A. told me he couldn’t wait to come back to Northeastern Pennsylvania and get back on the air with listeners. That was his main concern. While he enjoyed the care he received at Fox Chase, he wanted to be with his co-workers in their Pittston Township studio because that was where he belonged, not at the hospital.
Before I left, he wanted me to take a photo of him in a hospital gown, with monitors hooked up to his frail body.
How could I say no?
He also wanted me to send the “most un-Tarone-like” picture to Sue because he wanted to show the world he was still alive and ready to beat the cancer monster.
The photo never made it to the WILK website, or Facebook page, because Sue said she was too heartbroken to post it.
As I talked to people Monday for a remembrance story on L.A., I realized why he said it was the “most un-Tarone-like” photo. The man enjoyed and loved his clothing, and a hospital gown is 100 times different than the fancy suit coats and crazy pants he wore.
WILK’s Karel Zubris said L.A. “treasured his clothing” and argued some of his pieces should be in an art museum. Nancy Kman, another radio colleague, said his clothing had a “flair for the dramatic.”
May your flair (and legacy) never die, Louis Alfred Tarone. Rest in peace.