November 24, 2015

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7/24/00 He Was Always There
I would answer the phone and a voice would say, "Am I speaking with the good-looking, young Eric Rhoads?" Walking through a crowd at a convention, I would hear above the din, "Look everyone. Itís that good-looking, young Eric Rhoads." As I turned toward the voice, he would always be there, Wayne Cornils, pointing at me and smiling.
He was always there, but I wasnít special. Wayne rolled out that same red carpet for everyone. It was his gift.
I was just a kid at my first Radio conference. I knew no one. Wayne Cornils was a luminary, a visionary co-creator of the RAB conference. He was its official emcee, a big man with important friends. But when he saw me standing alone at a cocktail party that first night, he left his important friends and walked over to shake my hand. When he realized just how scared and lonely I was, Wayne made it his mission to introduce me to every person in that room: "Gentlemen, I want you to meet my friend, the good-looking, young Eric Rhoads. You need to get to know this young man, because heís going places." Upon returning home from the convention, I called to thank him for what he had done. "Iíll never forget you, Mr. Cornils." "Call me Wayne," he said.
When I was navigating a fledgling magazine through dangerous mine fields, Wayne was always there. Time after time, I would call with a problem, and he never once failed to give me sage advice. But the most valuable thing Wayne Cornils ever gave me was the lesson he taught me that first night ó to be approachable by everyone, no matter how "unimportant" they may seem, and always to do my best to make others feel good about themselves.
Did you know Wayne Cornils? Do you remember how heíd always ask about you, your life and your family? Do you remember how he never spoke ill of another soul? Do you remember how he smiled his way through every hardship and never once complained?
When Wayne got cancer and was told he didnít have long to live, I created the Radio Ink Radio Wayne Awards to ensure that Radio would never forget its most wonderful ambassador. Itís an award that recognizes those who are carrying forward Wayneís life mission. Itís an award that anyone can win, no matter how "unimportant," and itís given to make people feel good about themselves.
Thatís what Wayne Cornils was all about. When Wayne beat the cancer into remission for several years, it was my privilege to stand each year and applaud the man who had done so much for Radio. The RAB has graciously allowed me to present these awards at each of its conferences for the last nine years, and if they will let me, I plan to continue the Radio Wayne Awards until the end of my days.
When I was told that Radio Wayne "got his wings," I closed my door and cried. A few minutes later, the door popped open, because those outside were curious to see why I was laughing. Tears streaming down my face, I said, "I just had a vision of Radio Wayne strolling the streets of heaven, pointing out a shy little fellow and shouting, ĎLook everybody, itís that good-looking, young ... ."
He was always there, and Iím going to miss him.

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