Pat O'Neill's Blog



A Christmas memory this year didn't involve sitting by the tree surrounded by family, but sitting in a restaurant surrounded by strangers. My daughter was in the typical situation of trying to please two families, one gathered in rural Minnesota, the other in Portland, Oregon. She was worn out after consecutive days of shopping, wrapping, baking and visiting, but handled it all with grace before a Christmas night flight back to the west coast. I was dreading the sad goodbye at the airport, and with several hours to kill beforehand we ended up at a hotel restaurant. The place was packed with happy people and a cheery staff, and the french bread, onion soup and good wine made the time fly as I got to spend a few hours with my beautiful, brilliant daughter. 

Five things about my wife:
* She smiles and makes friends easily. Our neighbors like her. She defines "Minnesota Nice"
* She is excellent with money, pushed for our first house, pays off credit cards.
* She's intelligent and well-versed on current issues. I'd choose a Seinfeld re-run, she'd choose CNN.
* She is a great mom. Our 20-something daughter still calls and visits.
* She married me 27 years ago today and just left a "Happy Anniversary" message on my voice-mail.


Just back from a great vacation with my wife and daughter Kate in Washington DC. We first took Kate to DC (a day and a half by car) in the hot summer of '88, and I recall carrying my toddler up the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Now at 25 she's the boss, choosing the restaurants and hailing cabs. We spent hours at the assorted Smithsonian museums, shopped in Georgetown, even found a Farmer's Market.  A scene we'll always remember: standing near the White House one evening, we wondered where the nearest "Metro" (DC's excellent subway system) stop was. Kate spotted a good looking man walking past us and asked if he could assist. As he was pointing out the route, Kate realized she was talking to hottie actor (and now White House official) Kal Penn.

(After 20+ years at Vilas Zoo, Nanuq the Polar Bear has left for Buffalo, New York, so  here's a blog from the past).

Magic 98 listeners once turned a sad event into something special. Early on a Sunday morning in March 1988 a developmentally disabled man walked into Henry Vilas Zoo and climbed into the polar bear compound, home of the massive bear "Chief." To save the man's life a Madison police officer was forced to shoot and kill Chief. People were shocked and sad.

A few days later we interviewed Zoo Director Dr. David Hall on the morning show and asked what it would cost to find a new polar bear. He estimated $25,000. I pledged that if Magic 98 listeners would contribute $9800 I would shave my head in public. While hardly an original radio tactic - my former boss Chuck Knapp at KS95 Minneapolis had done it when the Twins won the World Series, and several Madison personalities have tried it since - it got the needed attention. On March 16, 1988 Magic broadcast live all day at Vilas Zoo. We reached our goal by noon, and by the end of the day had raised $27,000. My hair stylist Amy took her shears to me with hundreds of people watching (and thousands more on WISC's "Live At 5.") I still have the stylish cap my wife, Lee, bought me.
What happened next was truly "Magical." Dr. Hall learned that the Anchorage zoo had taken possesion of two orphaned polar bear cubs and was searching for a home for them. A trip was quickly arranged, with the people at Madison icon Oscar Mayer contributing a corporate jet. I was thrilled to join a small group including Dr. Hall and Wisconsin State Journal nature writer Steve Hopkins on the one-day trip, 10 hours total in the air. A Vilas veterinarian cared for the cubs, keeping the airplane cabin frosty cool. As the bears slept during the flight home we couldn't resist petting them. What looks like golden retriever fur actually feels like steel wool. No surprise, since they do endure "polar" conditions, but there is not a cuter baby animal on earth. The plane landed in Madison and a parade lead the bears to their new home. The brothers were named "Nanuq" and "Norton."
Apparently polar bears brothers don't stay friendly as they grow older, so the amazing 800 pound Norton lives in Detroit these days.

Tags :  
Topics : Human Interest
Social :
Locations : BuffaloDetroitGeorgetownMinneapolisMinnesotaNew YorkOregonPortlandWashington DcWest Coast
People : Chuck KnappDavid HallKal PennKateLeeSteve Hopkins

10/05/2012 11:11AM
Please Enter Your Comments Below
Title :
Comment :
Tag Cloud
Ginger Martin
Noon - 3pm
Recent Posts