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The Death of WNZF’s Ron Charles, Friend and Colleague, at 56

| November 7, 2018

Ron ‘Charles’ Gitschier

Ron Charles. (© FlaglerLive)

Services for Ron Charles are scheduled for Sunday, Nov. 18, at Craig Flagler Palms Funeral Home, 511 Old Kings Road South, Flagler Beach, with a 1 p.m. reception and a 3 p.m. service. All welcome.

This is not what I want to be writing today, or any day. My friend and colleague Ron Charles, the news director and engineer who’s kept WNZF on the air for the past 10 years, died this morning. He was 56.

pierre tristamHe’d been having difficulties lately with heart and liver issues. Two weeks ago he’d texted me of his recent vacation out west with his wife Sandy, of his health getting a bit more troublesome. He listed the innumerable tests he was going through but as always he was in good cheer: one more challenge to deal with then move on. “I’m sure I’ll stack up some good co-pay bills but I can financially handle that,” he texted me. “I live below my means most of the time.”

He was back at work at the end of the month but then it all quickly deteriorated. He was hospitalized, did not improve, and this morning we got an announcement from WNZF: “It’s with great sadness that Flagler Broadcasting announces the passing of Ron ‘Charles’ Gitschier, 56. Ron was the first person hired as chief engineer 10 years ago to build Flagler County’s first radio station WNZF. Ron was a proud retired Navy veteran of 23 years who moved to Flagler County in 2003.”

Ron Charles interviewing Realtor and Palm Coast Arts Foundation's Sam Perkovich in 2012. (© FlaglerLive)

Ron Charles interviewing Realtor and Palm Coast Arts Foundation’s Sam Perkovich in 2012. (© FlaglerLive)

“Our entire staff is devastated over this sudden loss. Everybody who knew Ron loved him and he will be greatly missed,” David Ayres, Flagler Broadcasting’s vice president and general manager, says in the release.

It was Ron’s voice on WNZF’s Local Morning news for the past 10 years, it was him scaling those communication towers in all kinds of weather to keep the stations on the air–four stations by now–it was him making it to more news, business and cultural events than, one would think, any single person could handle on top of his other responsibilities. And it was him who, as he told me with mischievous pleasure while he drove me somewhere recently and he played a particular DVD, that he’d years ago aired that very compilation on what amounted to a roving, pirated radio station for 120 minutes over Flagler. He doesn’t think anyone noticed, least of all the FCC, but it obviously gave him immense pleasure, even several years later.

“As a radio reporter he had great relationships and liked everybody he met,” WNZF’s announcement stated. Including other reporters: for the past nine years we’ve tag-teamed on assignments, exchanged audio, bailed each other out when one or the other would miss an important event (Ron bailing me out far more often than the other way around). I took him for granted, as I’m sure his station did. That’s what happens with the unfailingly reliable, those who have the nonexistent ego of a good Sufi. There could not be a time without Ron, affable Ron who always conducted his interviews gently but who was also nobody’s fool when it came to his responsibilities as news director.

In a B-17 Flying Fortress in 2015. (© FlaglerLive)

In a B-17 Flying Fortress in 2015. (© FlaglerLive)

“He may be a client, but I run a news department, not a sales department,” he texted me a few months ago as we were trading notes on a political candidate foreign to many ethical boundaries. “And in my mind, keep both sides separate. You never hear me on commercials, unless it’s a news sponsor, and that in itself rarely happens.”

There could not be a time without him, but now there is. And to think that all I have left of him beside the many pictures of him when our paths crossed on the beat or elsewhere is an old double-decker tape deck he’d lent me so I could digitize a few ancient cassettes, and those texts going back years, the biography of a friendship and a collaboration in snippets that, dip in anywhere you like, reveals Ron’s modesty and generosity, his versatility and his humor.

Ron with other media in January outside the Sheriff's Office's Operations Center, awaiting the exit of a murder suspect. (© FlaglerLive)

Ron with other media in January outside the Sheriff’s Office’s Operations Center, awaiting the exit of a murder suspect. (© FlaglerLive)

Take this one from a year ago, which happens to sum up so many of his qualities in a matter of a few lines: his constant willingness to work, his quirky pleasures, the pride in his family, and that eternal cheer. Always the cheer: “Have you been to the Jacksonville IKEA yet? I was going to Saturday, but was asked to install new equipment at the Bethune Cookman radio station for their football broadcast. Can’t pass the money up as I’m about to become a grandfather in December. Time to return to California.” Then he added: “More good news, our youngest got his acceptance notice for UCF. He’ll work on his bachelor’s and leave the nest.” He had an 11-month-old grandchild when he died.

“Not a good day for Flagler Broadcasting,” David wrote in his email to Ron’s friends and colleagues this morning. If only it were just a day. WNZF and our small media community, and just as importantly, the Flagler community as a whole, lost in Ron a man of immovable integrity and decency in an industry lacking both, and a man whose quiet warmth and affection, whose unselfish professionalism and unassuming strength, some of us will not know again.

Pierre Tristam is FlaglerLive’s editor. Reach him by email here or follow him @PierreTristam.

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17 Responses for “The Death of WNZF’s Ron Charles, Friend and Colleague, at 56”

  1. The Truth says:

    Ron RIP

  2. Bruce Van Deusen says:

    Ron Charles will be missed. We ran into each other frequently around town, especially at Publix, at events, at community or governmental gatherings, and always made time to share a few good friendly words. Ron was a font of knowledge and wisdom and a wonderful guy to know. I’m sad that Ron isn’t among us any more.

  3. Jan Reeger says:

    Ron was always so nice and friendly. Never missed a chance to say hello and chat. He will be missed.

  4. Charles F. Ericksen, Jr says:

    Flagler County has lost a good man.. An always busy individual , who ” just happened to have ” a small recorder to get your remarks I’ll be he finds a tall tower , to broadcast back to us..Rest in peace , Friens

  5. Concerned Citizen says:

    Pierre,

    My condolences on the passing of Ron. I have run into him several times over the years and he seemed like a nice guy. Always enjoyed our chats about the engineering side of radio.

    He will be sorely missed

  6. Heavy Heart says:

    This brings great sadness to my heart. Ron should have spent his money—he won’t take it with him Ron was a nice person and will be greatly missed. RIP friend.

  7. Jack Howell says:

    Ron will be missed by all. He was one of the guys that truly loved what he did. My heartfelt condolences to his family.

  8. Carol says:

    I am so sorry to hear this, I loved listening to Ron on the radio every morning on my ride to work. Sending prayers and sympathy to all of Ron’s family & friends.

  9. Aloyd Hurley says:

    Rest in peace will miss listening to you.

  10. Fredrick says:

    My condolences to friends and family and to all of Flagler County for the loss of this true gentleman.

  11. palmcoaster says:

    May God welcome Ron in his Kingdom and comfort his family!

  12. Keep Flagler Beautiful says:

    Lovely tribute, Pierre.

  13. Darren kesler says:

    I served with Ron in the Navy in 1981-84. Great guy. He will be missed.

  14. James Richardson says:

    I met Ron at several USS CONSERVER reunions, a gathering of crew that served on this ship from the 1950’s to when it was decommissioned. Ron and I would discuss Radio, his passion, and photography but I found him to be quite knowledgeable on many subjects and a joy to talk with. His fellow shipmates will sorely miss him and I shall remember our conversations and his affable nature………

  15. Carol Croswell says:

    Thanks for this touching tribute. It’s so comforting to know that what we all know to be true of his character personality and passion for his lifelong love of all things radio and electronics has not gone unnoticed or under appreciated. Growing up he always tried to pick up far off signals, recording station Id jingles and visiting local stations. He actually brought home a huge tower or part thereof and attached it to our small rental house back in his teen years. I know that his friends and coworkers enriched his life as much as I can see he did theirs . He will be missed.
    Carol Croswell Ron’s younger sister.

  16. Rick Gardner says:

    It is always a travesty when radio loses a fan and supporter.

  17. Weldon Ryan says:

    My condolences to Ron’s family and friends. I did not know him personally but I have benefited from his work.
    He has done great service to Flagler county and country. To die so young is a great loss. His legacy exists with testimony from all of the Flaglerlive readers as they all have such wonderful remembrances of him. Thank you Pierre for your testimony! May he rest in peace!

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