Note: The biographical information and quotes in this post were derived from a number of other websites.
Bob Paquette, the local host and Senior News Producer of Morning Edition carried on Western Massachusetts NPR stations 88.5 WFCR and WNNZ; died this past weekend in Bloomfield, CT at the age of 55.
The exact time and cause of Paquette’s death will not be truly known until an autopsy is performed, but it is said that he died of an apparent heart attack sometime between late Friday and early Saturday. He is survived by among others his partner of eighteen years and husband of seven Michael Packard.
” Most of us at WFCR are having a hard-time believing that the quiet that the quiet gentleman who arrived at the station long before we even woke up; will no longer be greeting us with a wry comment or a warm hug; both of which he delivered regularly,” said Karen Brown, a reporter for WFCR, in a segment on the death of her colleague recorded for broadcast and posted on WFCR’s website.
Charlene Scott, a former WFCR arts reporter who worked with Paquette for fifteen years, told Brown that her former colleague had a strong work ethic, despite the challenges that accompany having to be at work by the break of dawn and preparing to produce and host a prominent news program.
” It is a really, really tough shift to be here so early in the morning, and I was always amazed how Bob handled it all,” recalled Scott. “He was always just unflappable about doing the shift and also about being a reporter.”
UMASS Amherst, which Paquette had attended between 1974-77 has biographical information on Paquette posted on its ‘talking points page.‘ (Note much of the biographical information of this story comes from there).
“Bob Paquette will be deeply missed at UMass Amherst. He is best known as an outstanding journalist who each day enlightened thousands of listeners in the Pioneer Valley and beyond,” said Chancellor Robert C. Holub. “He was also a proud UMass graduate, and we will cherish the memory of his role at our commencement ceremonies, where his voice of authority and joy set the perfect tone for our most important community celebration. He shared his talents in many ways, and for that we will always be grateful.”
Paquette spent the bulk of his life in Massachusetts, but was born in North Carolina as one of three sons. During his childhood with his mother, father, and the rest of his family; young Bob moved to Dracut Massachusetts, where the family lived, owned a restaurant, and Bob attended school. In 1974, Paquette began college at UMASS Amherst, where he discovered a passion for radio broadcasting and news while working at the student run campus radio station WMUS. After graduating, Paquette relocated to the Western United States, before returning to the Pioneer Valley and starting worked at WRNX and WTTT.
In 1991, Paquette joined 88.5 WFCR, the Western Massachusetts NPR station based in Amherst on the campus of his alma mater. During what would become a nearly two decades long tenure with the station he served as a reporter, host, and eight years as a news director for the station, before eventually becoming the host and Senior News producer for the Pioneer Valley’s version of the national NPR program “Morning Edition”. throughout his time at WFCR, Paquette’s work was critically acclaimed garnering ten awards from the associated press for his news reporting and four others from the Public Radio News Director’s News Association during his stint as News Director.
A resident of Sunderland at the time of his death, Paquette also served as a ‘Justice of the Peace’ and frequently enlightened audiences and new graduates at UMASS with his wit and knowledge with occasional commencement addresses. In the early 21st century he was diagnosed with Cancer, a battle he won and would remain Cancer free for the final three years of his life. His experience as a Cancer survivor gave him insight, that he shared by counseling those newly diagnosed with the disease.
Tuesday news of his death and the knowledge that a familiar voice that so many awoke to or commuted to work with, sparked a flurry of condolences posted on the Masslive.com. Some had a personal relationship with Paquette who was a shaping force in their professional lives.
‘ Bob gave me my start in public radio, with a brief internship in 1998,’ wrote a commenter identified as rekha 6. ‘He was so welcoming and willing to show me all the ropes, as were his colleagues. Thanks to them, I continued on to work at NPR in Washington, and now still with public radio — PRX — in Cambridge. I grew up in WFCR-land and I’m sad that region has lost such a quality journalist and good person. Condolences to his family and his colleagues.’
But so many others who didn’t know the man as much as they did his voice that greeted the day or were part of the morning commute to work, expressed their sorrow.
‘What a loss to us all’, wrote a comment poster known as ‘Molly Pat’. ‘I heard this news last night and listened to Morning Edition in order to hear their report. I realized that I was expecting to hear his voice.’
Memorial services will consist of a public wake at The Czelsniak Funeral Home in Northampton on June 2 from 4-7pm, and a separate service reserved for friends and family at the Old Deerfield Church at 1pm on June 4.