Remembering Joe Zupan

Joe Zupan working in his delightfully unorthodox way, fall 1997

Spokane Public Radio suffered another personal loss this morning. Longtime staff member Joe Zupan passed away after a long illness. Joe was a fixture during the first 20 years of KPBX. He was one of the first interns chosen (from EWU). His 'velvet tones' and love of music made him an excellent jazz host. He became an award-winning reporter after getting advice that the only way to have a future in public radio is to go into news or management. "No way I was going into management" he told the Program Guide in 1999.

He sent KPBX wonderful letters and postcards from his two-year Peace Corps mission in the South Pacific. When he returned to Spokane in 1997, his old job as local host of All Things Considered had JUST reopened.

When he prepared to leave KPBX for good in 1999, he said, "The staff here is like family -- it's corny but true." And today we can't really believe we've lost a member of that family. We want to just think he's off having another adventure.

Other memories from friends of KPBX:

Joe was the sparkpug at KPBX, always ready with a huge smile, a big dose of humor, and a huge heart of kindness. Pedal power. the friendliest on-air host ever...Forever connected with KPBX. I'm glad he found you, too, Wendy. Thank you for giving him joy. And hugs to the oldtimers at KPBX who are missing him so today. - Mary Miller

While I did not have the pleasure of knowing him as I know many of the staff, he basically did radio his way and I wonder if we will see another like him in the near future. A true humanitarian in all he did. - Bill Wright

1991 or '92: A gal in Gonzaga's journalism program headed over to KPBX to see how public radio covered local news. Joe let me tag along to a city council meeting, getting raw audio. He brought me back to an audio production room (which is mostly the same!) and spliced the tape by hand, preparing to go live with Doug Nadvornick with the report. By the time I actually began working for KPBX, he was off in the islands with the Peace Corps. But we did get to work together for that short stint from '97-'99. Verne and Doug still had a bet going on when Joe would come back. - Janean Jorgensen

Joe told me a story that he was on a boat in the South Pacific and another boat signaled them and came by and Joe started talking to a woman on board. She told him that he sounded just like an announcer on a public radio station in Washington that she used to listen to. An amazing coincidence and of course it was Joe. Small world, and I will miss his humor and creativity. I remember him and Phylis Silver stirring cat litter in a pail to make the sounds of miners walking underground for the series they produced "Men. Mining and Money". - Frank Delaney

Joe was one of a kind, respected by his colleagues and the people he interviewed. He died way too young. - Doug Nadvornick
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