Jan. 16, 2005 "Big hearted," "dedicated to his community," "flair for the dramatic,""propensity for being late" and "tendency to overtake other members of the media" were a few of the ways friends, colleagues and wells-wishers described veteran broadcaster Lee Carle Sunday night as they celebrated his 50 years in broadcasting in the Virgin Islands.
Many of his broadcast colleagues credited Carle with giving them direction early on, which led to their later successes.
James O' Bryan Jr., spokesman for the Governor and St. Thomas/Water Island administrator, who served as master of ceremonies for the celebration held at Victor's New Hideout, said, "He told me 'you have possibilities in broadcasting' as long as I let him teach me."
"Mango Jones," known more widely as former Delegate to Congress Ron de Lugo, recalled the first day he met Carle in 1954 when Carle walked into WSTA's then-studio a bunker in Frenchtown in what de Lugo described as his wool "zoot suit" fresh from Albany, N.Y.
De Lugo told him, "You'll be doing the six o'clock news."
Carle said,"Okay,"and asked, "Where's the news ticker?"
De Lugo tossed him a copy of the New York Times and said, "Just read this."
Carle looked at it and said, "But this is two days old."
De Lugo replied, "Nobody cares."
Carle shared a few of his own memories of that first day saying he walked into the makeshift studio to find, "This barefoot guy drinking a beer and listening to music." The guy was de Lugo, known on the airwaves as Mango Jones. Carle recalled the microphone was hung on a rope with a rock on the other side to balance it.
And so the evening went, with one person after another sharing stories and anecdotes about Carle and the "old days" of broadcasting in the Virgin Islands.
Former Attorney General Iver Stridiron had the audience nearly doubled over with laughter as he told three stories of the influence and character embodied by Carle. Stridiron called them the chopper one story, the pissing contest and the Cinema One riot. The pissing contest was when, Stridiron, a senator at the time, challenged then-governor Juan Luis to take a urine test after Luis suggested making all government employees submit to random testing. Luis didn't trust the laboratories in the V.I., Stridiorn said, so the two took off to Puerto Rico, accompanied by Carle, who Stridiron said might even have accompanied Luis into "the stall."
Stridion said with his "flair for the dramatic," Carle found a white lab coat, dressed in it and speaking into the camera he had brought with him said, "This is Lee Carle broadcasting to you from Puerto Rico."
Later in the evening, in complete character, Carle corrected Stridiron on a few points, in particular that the lab coat was green, not white.
The chopper one story reflected the influence Carle has had over the years. After Hurricane Hugo devastated the territory in 1989, then-Gov. Alexander Farrelly traveled between the islands in a helicopter that Carle dubbed "chopper one." The designation caught on so well, that Farrelly himself referred to it that way after awhile, Stridiron said.
Eustace Grant, former president of the V.I. Taxi Association, who is well-known for his expertise about and coverage of cricket matches, recalled being on a cruise ship event with Carle.
"The ship's captain was about to get up and give his speech when Lee said, 'no you can't start, I'm not ready yet.'"
The favorite Lee Carle story of the night , of course, is the one well-known and often recounted by the community of the night in March 1979 when Carle was arrested during a live broadcast because he refused to leave the West Indian Company dock where the cruise ship Angelina Lauro was engulfed in flames that subsequently destroyed her.
The story went on describing how Carle, while emphatically talking about his first amendment rights to broadcast the news, was arrested by then-Police Chief David Cantor on the orders of Police Commissioner Milton Branch all to the listening audience.
Eddie Delagarde, spokesman for Delegate Donna M. Christensen, said whenever he hears a siren he automatically tunes in to WSTA because he knows Carle will be there. "He's everywhere, " Delagarde said. "I think he's cloned."
And wherever he is, it was clear Sunday night, he is providing service to the community and the community loves him for it.
From the nurse's sorority members, who were there to honor him for always "being there" for their special events, to Sen. Lorraine Berry, who said she has introduced a resolution in the Legislature to honor Carle for his 50 years of service, the love and appreciation for Carle's dedication was overflowing.
"I tried to practice crying just a little bit," Carle said in his dry-humored way as he got up to speak at the end of the evening, "But I am just so overjoyed."
And the joy came despite being burglarized on Thursday while he was at work. Carle lost more than equipment and some jewelry. He lost some valuable memorabilia and history too, including cufflinks he was given by former Gov. Melvin Evans, and years worth of interviews and tapes he had recorded.
But as he left the podium Sunday night his parting words were, "I won't forget."
And it was clear neither will the community he has served.
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