By Evamarie Socha
The Daily Item
LEWISBURG — WGRC Radio founder Larry Weidman signs off the radio for the last time today, and he knows it won’t be easy to do.
“I did the morning drive today,” Weidman said Friday from the Lewisburg radio station. “I was taking off the headset and thought ... ehhh!” he said with a laugh. “It will be quite an adjustment.”
But now is a good time for Weidman, 65, to retire from the contemporary Christian radio station he and wife Janet started in 1988, he said.
His last program airs from 11 to noon, and then in January, they will head south to a new life as doting grandparents in northern Atlanta.
“We really felt this was the right time,” Weidman said. “We’ve be observing our four grandkids. … It’s time to be involved in their lives consistently. We’re at the age where we’re still able to travel and be active in their lives.”
It will be an adjustment as well for the 70,000 listeners of the adult contemporary Christian-format radio station that debuted on the air April 22, 1988, at frequency 91.3 FM.
“It’s always refreshing in the morning to turn on the radio and hear Larry speaking, to hear him encouraging people in the Valley in their faith,” said Pastor Jilline Bond, of Revival Tabernacle, Watsontown.
Bond said she appreciated Weidman’s “relevant words” on the air, “not too preachy or self-righteous. The gospel doesn’t need to be confused with extra stuff, and Larry isn’t that kind of person. We will miss him on the radio.”
Originally from the Valley, Weidman attended the University of South Carolina, where he got his radio chops. His first radio job came in 1966 as a news announcer for WPGM in Danville.
Weidman also was involved in dairy and food processing and worked in that profession for about 14 years.
But Weidman never left radio behind. “Once you do radio, it’s in your blood,” he said. “You just can’t get rid of it.” He was news and public affairs director for WMHK for several years until the end of 1980s, when the Weidmans had moved back to the Valley from South Carolina. It was then that the idea for WGRC was born.
“We both felt the need” for this type of broadcasting, Weidman said. Originally, the station was on the air from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. Then, it became a 24-hour format with the addition of automation.
Since its debut, WGRC has added six frequencies and, in 1997, was among the first radio stations to begin streaming over the Internet.
WGRC has grown from one full-time paid announcer — the Weidmans donated their time to get things started — to 10 staffers, including a news reporter. Its operating budget today is about $650,000.
WGRC’s demographic, ages 25 to 54, has changed a little, Weidman said. “We’re right in the middle, 40 is the average age,” he said.
That may be in part because the station aims to be contemporary. “We find it interesting with all other sources for contemporary Christian music that people still love to listen to the radio,” Weidman said. “The whole thing is we provide more than music: news, public affairs, ministry features.”
His visionary focus is one of the things Bond likes about Weidman, she said. “We will miss that,” she said, “and hopefully the next person can carry on that mission.”