On Island Profile: Leo Moron

Feb. 9, 2009 — When you hear Jamesie and the All Stars sounding the Caribbean rhythms of "Aunt Lisa" at noon Sundays, you know you're in for an hour of quelbe music on the Old Timer's Show, which Leo Moron has hosted for the last 42 years. It's a part of community life.
When he was a boy Moron asked his dad, a radio and television repairman, where was "that sound" coming from. He has since identified that sound and made it his own, and it has echoed across the islands for the last 50 or so years. He has owned his own station, WIUJ, for the last 35 years, the only Virgin Islander to own a non-commercial station in the territory.
"I always had a yen for radio," Moron says, making something of an understatement.
He is a fixture in the local radio community, behind the controls or out front. You can't get much more ingrained in the community than Moron. If it's on island and if it's local music, you know Moron will be there, from Latin Night at Carnival to the Food Fair in Emancipation Garden.
After graduating from Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic School, Moron did a stint in the U.S. Army, returned briefly to New York before returning home, where he joined then-Gov. Ralph Paiewonsky's staff as photographer before moving on to the V.I. Police Department.
"They sent me to FBI School for training — we had one here then," he says. This was in the late 1960s, and Moron became the crime-scene photographer.
However, his heart was still in radio.
"I went to work part-time for WSTA," he says, "and that's where the Old Timer's Show started."
Moron was hardly an old-timer when the show began 42 years ago. He started the show as a reaction to station policy.
"The station would play about one calypso song to hours of other music, and I didn't like it," he says.
After a stint at WSTA, Moron switched to a full-time job at WVWI, Radio One, for Rick Ricardo, where he worked on both sides of the control board. But don't call him a DJ.
"I hate that term," he says. "It reminds me of disco, 'DJ.'"
After awhile Moron decided it was time to strike out on his own.
"I read in the paper about someone who had started his own radio station, and I thought, 'If they can do it, I can do it,'" he says. And so he did, plowing through the laborious paperwork for his license. This was in the early 1970s, before the Internet.
Once Moron had the station in hand, he sailed.
"What I wanted to do was teach kids about radio," he says. "Juel Molloy, who was head of the Community Action Agency, recruited me to teach radio to students. All the high schools had radio clubs then. We'd have one club each, about four or five students, and we'd go over all the aspects of radio. We'd go over the technical part, how to run the control board, and about being on air. No obscenity, don't make noise shuffling paper when you're speaking. The kids loved it."
He still sees the ripples from that work in the community today.
"That was one of the most satisfying things I've ever done," Moron says. "I feel good about it. I see my old students and they come up and say, 'Do you remember me?' Usually I do," he says with a laugh. "Lisa Melchoir was a student and Curtis Gomez, who's a judge now."
He is proud of WIUJ, 102.9 FM.
"When we started we were 10 watts; now we're 1,500," Moron says.
The station's programming is diverse: quelbe, jazz and classical, with a couple of live broadcasts in French and in Spanish. It carries all the Senate hearings, streaming live.
Now and then Moron will sit in with the Seabreeze Band on triangle or tambourine. His radio idol is Ron deLugo when he was on WSTA as Mango Jones, before his political career.
His other idols are closer to home — local business owners.
"I admire Betsy of Betsy's 'Bar," he says. "She's always doing something — sweeping, whatever's needed. I look up to Leroy Gottlieb for the same reason. He owns his station, but he'll pump gas."
Moron has four children and 12 grandchildren.
"Only one has followed in my footsteps," he says. "My son, Michael Moron, is on KISS FM."
He pulls off his baseball cap and runs his hands through his graying hair — which "used to be black" — and says life is fine.
"I'm proud of helping the kids, and I feel good about being the first Virgin Islander to own a non-commercial station," Moron says. "Shows it can be done."
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