WVU Broadcasting Legend Woody O'Hara Remembered - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

WVU Broadcasting Legend Woody O'Hara Remembered

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Photo: WVU Sports Communications Photo: WVU Sports Communications
MORGANTOWN -

Legendary WVU sports broadcaster Woody O'Hara passed away Wednesday morning at the age of 70.

O'Hara, a native of Winchester, Va., died at the Monongalia General Hospital in the town in which he spent so much of his life and made such an impact following complications with a surgery on Friday.

A staple figure in the athletic community, O'Hara has broadcasted on radio and television in West Virginia "since television existed," those close to him will say.

One of those who has known him for over 39 years after meeting at a football game in Grafton is Jim Galusky, who still shoots video for the football coaching staff at WVU.

When reached by phone Wednesday, Galusky said his mind wasn't right after hearing the news of his good friend's passing.

"For 25 years, we probably lived together on every basketball and football road trip," says Galusky. "He was just a good-hearted guy and everybody loved him. Woody had no enemies."

O'Hara first worked with WWVU-TV when he initially came to Morgantown before beginning a radio career at WAJR and on television with the Mountaineer Sports Network as host of various programs from 1989 until the 2001 season. For 13 years, his face became synonymous with WVU sports in the same way that his voice had been for years prior to that.

Scott Bartlett, director at MSN, summed it up when reached Wednesday.

"It's a sad day," said Bartlett, who first met O'Hara back in 1990 when he began working for the network.

"Woody was absolutely the most unique, wonderful, funny person I've ever met. He had the best personality and the best sense of humor of anyone I've ever met."

Bartlett, like so many in the state, grew up listening to Jack Fleming and O'Hara call Mountaineer games on the radio. The two had such a presence in the homes of WVU sports fans simply by using their voices and their words to paint a picture the listeners could not see on their own.

But through those two, the game came to life from Wheeling to Bluefield and everywhere in between.

The opportunity to work with O'Hara is one that Bartlett treasured, but soon he came to know the man outside of the profession, and a business relationship turned into a close friendship.

Still, there was work to be done, and when Bartlett took over directing all the MSN television programs in 1994, he knew he had O'Hara's respect from the way they were able to work together and complete the job.

"You get a lot of people that are on air now that want to have it their way and do things their way. Woody would do anything that we would want," says Bartlett. "When I say I produced and directed the show, I really produced and directed the show, not the announcer."

Barlett recalls days in the dead of winter that he and the rest of the crew would pack in a four-wheel drive truck and head out to O'Hara's house to pick him up for a shoot with 10 inches of snow on the ground. Rain or shine, a show like "Mountaineer Jammin'" needed to be produced.

With Halloween just around the corner, Bartlett is reminded of the days in which he and O'Hara would put together a holiday special, one time creating a scene with the broadcaster greeting young trick-or-treaters from his home.

Galusky says that up until about a month ago, he still fielded calls from O'Hara every time his pal heard a new joke.

"He always had a joke. If he heard a joke somewhere, he'd call and tell me. He's big time on jokes," says Galusky. "That was Woody."

The memories exist in excess, and they'll help people like Galusky and Bartlett to keep a friend and help WVU fans to keep a legend, even in death. 

O'Hara told MSN in 2002 that he was no longer comfortable being the face of the television programs, but continued another seven years doing voiceovers for various productions.

In 2008, O'Hara was inducted into the West Virginia Broadcasters Hall of Fame. For a man who shied away from attention outside of what was warranted in his profession, the accomplishment was something he would cherish.

"He was so incredibly proud of that," says Bartlett. "I had never heard the man really ever talk about himself, and he didn't at that time either, he was just so grateful that people recognized him. He was a celebrity and he never knew he was a celebrity.

"We'd go out in public to eat and people would walk up and want his autograph while we're eating lunch and it always surprised him. After it was over he'd say, ‘Why'd they want my autograph?' He was so humble."

It's because of these moments, this mindset of humility that O'Hara carried with him, that it is difficult for those who worked with him to see him as the broadcaster rather than the person, the friend.

Bartlett's last memory of O'Hara will also be his lasting memory of the person the Mountain State lost Wednesday.

"The last time I saw him was at his granddaughter's softball game," says Bartlett. "After he retired, what did he do? He enjoyed being a grandfather. I'm sure that'll be in his obituary. He was being a grandfather and enjoying himself and that's how I'll remember him."

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