"Big John" McElhinney Tribute Page Courtesy Of
Colleagues and Family Salute "Big John" McElhinney
(March 22, 2003) A Masonic funeral was held today for 710/KMPC's John McElhinney at Eternal Valley Memorial Park in Newhall. "John is safe in his Father's home," remarked the leader of the Masonic services, an organization he was a member of for 45 years. "His life had dignity and grace."
One of John's two sons, David, remembered his dad as a "good teacher. He had integrity. He told us to be proud of who we are and where we're from." David said that his dad was always strict and a good disciplinarian and rarely showed weakness. "But in his last days, he showed a tenderness and an incredible strength."
John and Doris were married for 57 years and they had two sons and four grandchildren. From 1943-46 he served in the Army Medical Corps. Representative from the LAPD and CHP (John was a sergeant of the LAPD from 1947-67), attended the services.
Following the church services, Mike Nolan (KFI/KOST), Commander Chuck Street (KIIS-FM), Philippe Lesourd (KLOS), Johnny McCool (Channel 34) and Sgt. Doug Abney and Kevin Gallager (LAPD) flew in formation over Eternal Valley with the missing plane.
Condolences and correspondence may be sent, via e-mail to John's wife, Doris McElhiney
Stan Spero, Kevin Gershan John Felz
Bagpipes played during service Bob Miller Spero, Doris, Gershan
Bob Maryon Ollie Stine, Pamela McInnes, Bob Maryon, Ken Miller,
Stan Spero, John Felz, Kevin Gershan
Gershan, Stine, McInnes, Maryon Bill Ward Stan Spero
"Big John" McElhinney Joins Illustrious Group in 710 Heaven
(March 14, 2002) "Big John" McElhinney, a beloved 710/KMPC broadcaster for many years, died quietly on March 14, 2003 at his home in Bakersfield. He had been fighting a losing battle with congestive heart failure and lung cancer. John was 77. "Big John" had numerous careers but cherished the time when he was part of the KMPC morning drive team with Robert W. Morgan and Marv Howard.
Born in 1925 in Oakville, Iowa, John moved to the Southland when he was a youth. "Oakville had 500 souls," John told me while interviewing him for Los Angeles Radio People. After serving in the military, he was discharged in 1946 and went to work in a gas station. "I was pumping gas and changing oil. Two L.A. cops came to the station every day and they encouraged me to take the police examination. I took the test at Hollywood High, was hired and spent 20 years as part of the helicopter unit of the Los Angeles Police Department."
After a midair collision that took the life of KMPC's Max Schumacher, it was a very "unsettling time" for John. He left the police department and became general manager of Bell Helicopter's Van Nuys Center before going airborne for full-service KMPC. He left KMPC in 1982 after undergoing open-heart surgery. "I ran away to Salem, Oregon. I knew my flying career was over and I was feeling sorry for myself. I needed an escape vehicle." John worked in radio and was a tv weatherman in Oregon. In 1987 he returned to KMPC and experienced his happiest times. "For a while Marv and I did a one-hour show together each morning before Robert started his shift." John and his wife Doris lived in Wofford Heights, between Kernville and Lake Isabella. "Our cabin sits on the side of a hill and it looks over the lake," John said wistfully.
His colleagues, family and friends share memories about a well-loved LARP:
** Big John Funny and Glib
"John McElhinney was a wonderful traffic reporter and a great person. Very funny and glib as he did reports on the Dick Whittinghill show for many years. There was a time when I came up with themes for all the on air people on Whit's show and I used part of the record 'Big John' for his. He always seemed to enjoy his theme. I had the pleasure of flying with him and on one occasion he flew me to LAX to catch a flight for a vacation. What a giving and warm man he was. I will miss him as I'm sure all the people who knew him and all the many listeners will too. Heaven awaits my dear friend." - Bob Maryon
** KMPC Boss Remember a Great Human Being
"I will always remember John McElhinney as a great human being and a very talented radio personality. He was dependable, articulate and gave a wonderful service with his helicopter reports and warm personality to the radio listeners of Southern California. It was an honor and a pleasure to have worked with him over the many years he was at KMPC. He will be greatly missed by his many friends and admirers. With Sorrow and Sympathy." - Stan Spero
** Email Buddy
“John McElhinney was my email buddy and it came about in a very different way.
I met John once. He was the nephew of my Mom's best friend. He and Doris brought my Mom's friend [John's Aunt] to see my parents one last time in Peoria, Illinois. She had lived in Peoria but moved to California in her later years to be by John and Doris.
I put my email address in a Christmas card and heard via email from John checking on my Mom's health. It just mushroomed from there. I told my Mom John and I were emailing and she said, ‘Do not send him anything off color.’ After receiving a few ‘off color’ emails from John, I decided I could return the favor.
I could tell by his emails that he had a GREAT sense of humor. I will miss my email buddy and his fun emails and comments. He was a connection to the past.I am glad I found this memorial on the internet. I asked Doris to send me some at a later date.” - Lynne Marsho, Peoria, Illinois
** Kindest and Funniest Uncle
“I just read the tributes to John McElhinney on the Los Angeles Radio Web site. I was so moved by the outpouring of affection. I had known my ‘Uncle John’ since the age of 14. He was on the LAPD then and was good friends with my dad, Bill Guldner. He was the kindest and funniest man I had ever known.
When my dad suffered a stroke in 2001, John wrote him funny letters to keep his spirits up. I spoke and exchanged many an email with John, even after my dad passed away this past December. John was the first person I saw at dad's funeral. John and Doris made the trip from Bakersfield after John had been diagnosed with cancer and had started radiation treatments. That was just the kind of man he was. He always thought of others. When he had his heart attack I spoke with him on one of the last occasions he had the strength to talk. I will always be grateful I had the opportunity to tell him how much our family loved him and appreciated his support during the 18 months my dad was so ill.
We have truly lost a good soul.” – BJ Frazier
** A Wink to Big John
"Big John, as he was lovingly called, was a very special person to every one who knew and worked with him. I had the pleasure of getting to know him well the twelve years I was on the air at KMPC middays. It was John who, as a favor, flew me to Palm Springs one Sunday morning for a General Telephone tv commercial I was scheduled to shoot. And while there that day I stopped by the Gene Autry Hotel, where I met my future wife [of 28 years] - Sandy.
So John was special to me for many reasons! A good man. He will be missed by everyone who had the pleasure of calling him friend.” - Wink Martindale
** John Was More Than Talent
“John McElhinney was a big part of my life when I managed KMPC. His unique humor was unmatched both on air and off. I flew with John many times and enjoyed the pleasure of calling he and his wife, Doris my friends.” Ken Miller
** “Big John” Was Best Cop
“John McElhinney was the traffic reporter on my show at KMPC for a number of years. We’d talk about his dog, Dudley, a giant St. Bernard, every day. [Dudley once played the tuba on the show.]
Charlie Reese of the LAPD always said – ‘Big John’ was the one of the best cops ever.’ He was a marvelous gentleman! We’ll miss him. I spoke to him and his widow Doris just three days before his death.” – Gary Owens
** McElhinney Was a Friend
"I had the pleasure of working with John McElhinney at KMPC from 1975-1984. 'Big John' was not only a fellow KMPC alumni, he was my friend. When I was in high school, he gave me my first 'birdseye' view of the city in KMPC's Bell 47G helicopter [the bubble cockpit with no doors]. After I started working at KMPC I was able to spend more time with John and considered him a pro's pro who also made me feel like I was important, not just some kid hanging around the station.
As part of 'The Good Morgan Team,' John went out on all the crazy remotes we did, from County Fair's to Mike Botula's Greater Tustin Miniature Golf Classic. He always was one of the people the listeners flocked to see. People still ask me if I have a copy of 'Big John's' rendition of 'The Little Red Sled.' Now, that he has taken to the sky once more, I'm sure his good friend Robert W. Morgan was there to greet him and say, 'Hiya Pard...let me show you around.'" - Kevin Gershan
** Directed “Big John”
“I was one of those news guys who got to direct ‘Big John’ McElhinney around at times of fires and turmoil and the like over the Southland.
We even put together a very short lived aerial tour of little known places seen only from the air and truly described only through the marvelous eyes of John. Perhaps his greatest attribute was that he never stopped being just a nice guy.
He's there now with his old Airwatch collegues – Captain Max Shumacher, Jim Hicklin and, of course, the other big fella, Herb Green.
Whatta guy.” - Scott Shurian, KMPC News
** Recalled the Banter Between RWM and "Big John"
"I was so saddened to hear of John McElhinney's passing. It immediately took me back to the 80s when I worked with a group of great professionals in taking KMPC to a 3.4 rating playing music on an AM station. My God if that is a great rating today, it was a blockbuster then. Most of all it was the people who made it all work, and I will forever be thankful that I was a part of that group.
Memories came alive today when I recalled the banter and byplay of Robert W. Morgan and Big John. May their souls rest in peace." - Bill Mouzis
** Big John McElhinney Was Special
“Big John McElhinney was a VERY nice man! When I was recruited to come here, he gave me one heckava ride and tour in his chopper and when I was doing the Autry Special, Big John took me to a lot of my interview subjects. I think the last one was to Roy Rogers' place where we had a wonderful time with Roy and Dale.” – Scott St. James
** Email to An Ailing John McElhinney
“Here's the letter I wrote ‘Big John’ McElhinney last week: Years ago - a lot of 'em - long before professional wrestling even dreamed of routinely holding matches in front of 50,000 fans, a former cop from Camden, New Jersey, named Herman ‘Dutch’ Rhode bleached his hair and stepped into the ring as NATURE BOY BUDDY ROGERS. At the height of an illustrious and highly lucrative career as one of the world's premier athletes [despite the relative merits of pro wrestling as a sport] in front of a sold-out crowd at Comiskey Park in Chicago, NATURE BOY won the World Heavyweight Championship from Pat O'Connor in 1963.
The Champ is gone now, but down through the years, Buddy Rogers generated a number of copy-cats, each calling themselves NATURE BOY. One or two of 'em were extremely successful and very entertaining performers. Everybody knew, though, deep down in their black hearts that there was, is and ever will be only one real NATURE BOY, and THAT was Buddy Rogers.
OK. Here's where we're going with this: I worked for years in San Diego, Anaheim and Los Angeles as ‘Big John’ [Carter]. I am big. My real name is John. I always pulled pretty good numbers. But when the books are written, THIS Big John would like to freely acknowledge for the record that there was, is and ever will be only one real BIG JOHN
in Southern California broadcasting, and that, Sir, is YOU.
I wish you a safe landing, Brother. You are the Champion! My condolences right across the board.” – “Big John” Carter
** Sad Day as John McElhinney Dies
“Sad day, the passing of John McElhinney. He also did a lot of traffic for me at KMPC. He was bright, happy and always had a good word for everyone. John was a good guy. When I had to go to NYC for business, after my broadcasts from the ball park, John would pick me up at the ballpark in the whirly-bird and fly me to LAX. We were very fortunate at KMPC. The Cowboy and Stan Spero always had a station full of ‘good guys’ some kinda strange, but still ‘good guys.’ Our love to John's Doris and their family.” – Roger Carroll
** McElhinney Nice Man
“I'm so sad to hear about ‘Big John’ McElhinney. A wonderfully nice man who delighted everyone he knew. Please let me know when his services are. I'd like to try to go.” - Sharon Benoit
** McElhinney Great
“ ‘Big John’ McElhinney was so great with Robert W. Morgan. I have tapes of one of RWM's Christmas shows with John - truly classic radio. At least Robert W. and Big John can renew their partnership now. Thanks for the news, even though it's sad.” - Bob Johnson
** Nothing Negative About Big John
“I am looking forward to reading your readers’ emails regarding ‘Big John’ McElhinney. I’m sure they will contain high praise; there was nothing negative about John. He always made being at work a pleasure.” - Don McCulloch
** Rode Shotgun with “Big John”
“John McElhinney used to tell me, ‘There are old pilots and there are bold pilots. But, there are no old, bold pilots.’ I logged a lot of time with John as a visitor to his perch high above Los Angeles in KMPC's Airwatch helicopter. Many an afternoon, I would leave the KMPC newsroom and drive out to Burbank Airport and tag along with him as he did his afternoon traffic reports. ‘Big John.’ What a blend of talent, skills, humor and humanity. He had already completed one career, as a police officer and one of the first helicopter pilots flying for the Los Angeles Police Department.
He joined KMPC following the murder of the legendary Airwatch pilot Jim Hicklin in 1973. While he was a skilled pilot, John was totally new to broadcasting. At first, he was more apprehensive about talking into the microphone than being in a dog fight with the Red Baron. Being an airborne broadcaster takes a lot of concentration. John was constantly doing ten things at once - gathering information for his traffic reports, talking to the control tower, communicating with the news room, keeping a lookout for other aircraft in one of the busiest aviation traffic areas in the world and all at the same time making his passenger feel comfortable and most importantly connecting with his listeners. In doing so, he made it sound so easy. The folks who tuned in to hear John give them information about traffic and to talk about his dog, Dudley and joke about ‘Ranger Rick,’ and tell his seasonal story about how the little angel who first became a Christmas tree ornament, all considered John their friend, not just a voice in the sky.
John and I shared a passion for photography and he provided me with the greatest camera platform in the world. It was also a privilege for me to share his view of one of the most amazing cities in the world - Los Angeles. One afternoon, I was trying out a new wide angle lens and shot a profile of John with the Los Angeles skyline behind him. The shot was later used in a promotional poster for KMPC. When we first looked at the photo, he remarked, ‘Ah, the Emerald City.’ He really loved his job.
Those of us who were privileged to work at KMPC Radio 710 during that period still marvel at being a part of one of the greatest broadcast operations in history. John McElhinney made a huge contribution to that success. There will never be another KMPC, as we knew it in the 70s and sadly, there will not be another John McElhinney. I'm glad that he managed to outlive being a ‘bold pilot.’
Farewell, my friend.” - Mike Botula, Assistant Director Office of Public Affairs California Department of Child Support Services
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