Former WZOE Radio News/Sports Director Dave Van Drew was known as a professional and one who did his job with passion. Those who knew him off the air remembered him for his humor as well.
Van Drew died Monday at his home in Rochelle. He was 68.
Greg Halbleib, who worked with Van Drew for 12 years and succeeded him as WZOE news and sports director in 1992, called Van Drew a mentor and a friend. Halbleib didn’t go to school to get into radio, rather learning the trade from Van Drew.
“I couldn’t ask for a better teacher who also was a great friend,” said Halbleib, now who works radio in Bloomington-Normal. “David was such a pro. He was so thorough and dedicated to the job. I worked alongside him for over 12 years, and I knew all would be fine by just following his example.”
Halbleib said Van Drew brought the perfect mix to the airwaves with his fairness and thoroughness.
“It takes a special intuition coupled with a love for the area to do that job and still be thorough and fair,” he said. “It requires a touch not needed in larger areas. David demonstrated the perfect approach and remained solid while doing so. You will not find anyone, newsmaker or co-worker, who can claim anything other than being treated with the utmost fairness by the man.”
And then there was Van Drew’s side not everyone knew off air.
“Anyone who only remembers that authoritative on-air delivery might be surprised to know how much fun it was to work with him,” he said. “He was one of the most quick-witted people I’ve ever known, and he could make you laugh until your sides hurt whether you were in the newsroom, on the road or even in line waiting for a post-game burger.”
There was one moment during a broadcast when Van Drew really called it the way he saw it. Longtime BCR Sports Editor Kevin Hieronymus remembered during one of Van Drew’s broadcasts of the Plano Christmas Classic when someone bumped the press table and spilled a drink all over Dave’s scorebook. While on the air, Hieronymus said Van Drew proclaimed, ‘Some absolute moron, just spilled a drink all over my scorebook.’”
“That was Dave,” Hieronymus said.
Hieronymus found a good friend when he arrived in Bureau County in 1986 and met Van Drew for the first time.
“We had a lot of good times going to ballgames together. He was a pro’s pro. I found him to be very humble and yet one willing to stand up for what he believed in,” Hieronymus said. “I really looked up to him and admired him.”
Halbleib said Van Drew was very passionate about the local sports teams he covered. Halbleib said Van Drew did his broadcasts for some of the very best Bureau County teams during his tenure at WZOE like the 1982 Walnut football team, the 1985 Ohio basketball team and the 1989 Princeton football team, and he did so as if he was part of the team.
WZOE owner/general manager Steve Samet, said he has good memories of Van Drew.
“He did it all. He was a good man and an outstanding broadcaster,” Samet said. “He had a real feel for the business and always programmed to his audience. He was definitely an asset to us here.
“Dave always wanted to do the right thing, and apparently he did,” Samet continued. “He was a hard-working guy and did a nice job. I was happy for him the way his career turned out. He was a good man, and I have good memories. We’re all going to miss him.”
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