AKRON, Ohio - For decades, northeast Ohioans listened to the voice of Howie Chizek at Richfield Coliseum and over the radio airwaves.
Chizek became a fixture in listeners’ daily lives, making an indelible connection. That was obvious in the aftermath of his death, as viewers called in to WNIR, where Chizek worked for 38 years.
His death was a shock for many viewers who listened to him just Friday.
“Last time I talked to him was Valentine’s Day and I told him I loved him,” a caller named 'Westside Wendy' said. “I guess that’s the last conversation you want to have with someone.”
Chizek represented northeast Ohio through and through. He grew up in Cleveland Heights and never bolted for a bigger market.
Northeast Ohio was home for Chizek. Generations of Clevelanders associate him with the Cavaliers, where signature calls became a trademark for 17 years between the 1970s and 1990s.
"It’s amazing in this 21st century he was literally all over the world. He still had that one-on-one relationship no matter how many people listened to him,” WNIR Sunday program host Bob Lewis said. “When you heard the radio you heard Howie Chizek was talking to you."
The radio station and callers were Howie’s family both on and off the air, WNIR’s hosts on The Morning Show with Stan, Maggie, Steve and Phil said Monday.
“That’s his legacy of love to all of us,” one caller told them.
Chizek had a great sense of humor, engaging his callers and creating interesting talking points on topics.
“It was really great entertainment. People will talk about him for as long as he was in radio, if not longer,” another caller who listened to Howie for 23 years said.
The morning hosts at WNIR said they did the math and Chizik logged an unprecedented 58,000 hours on-air for his career.
Chizek died Saturday on his way to doing something he loved, giving back. Bob Klaus, the president of WNIR, said Chizek died of a heart attack while taking underprivileged children to Disney World.
On a poll on its website Monday morning, WNIR posed the question “What made you smile the most about Howie Chizek?”
Everything was leading the vote.
"He was extraordinarily humble off the air. When the mic light went on his persona grew immensely. His charisma oozed out over the airwaves," Klaus said.
Chizek lived 65 years and spent many of those connecting with northeast Ohioans. For that, he will not be forgotten.
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