Willard Parr interviews Steve Haag at his final live remote broadcast on Oct. 23, 2018. (HCP photo by Rory Ryan.)
Willard Parr interviews Steve Haag at his final live remote broadcast on Oct. 23, 2018. (HCP photo by Rory Ryan.)

Hall of Fame radio broadcaster and member of the Highland County Historical Society Hall of Fame Willard Parr passed away Monday, May 18.

The man who closed more schools over a 62-year career than COVID-19 has left a void in southern Ohio radio. He was 94.

In August 2019, Mr. Parr was introduced for his final Hall of Fame induction by his longtime friend and former Hillsboro City Councilman John Levo. As noted by Mr. Levo, "since his 1956 start at Hillsboro’s WSRW Radio, Willard Parr has been called the 'Voice of Southern Ohio.' Until his retirement in 2018, he informed and entertained hundreds of thousands of listeners throughout Highland County and southern Ohio with his personal broadcasting style.

"During 62 years on the air, he was constantly seen doing remote broadcasts at county fairs, local businesses, interviewing local elected officials and citizens, serving as master of ceremonies at parades and other public events, as a DJ for teen dances and helping raise money for local charities."

During an interview with The Highland County Press in 2018, Mr. Parr recalled his early days on WSRW.

"My first time on the air was July 15, 1956," he said. "The first commercial I ever sold was to the Peebles Monument Company. And Jerry Haag Motors in Hillsboro has been with me the longest."

Mr. Parr shared many memorable moments of his broadcasting career, including covering the severe southern Ohio winters and blizzards in 1977-78.

"We had so much snow that the fire departments and EMTs needed snowmobiles to get to some of the folks in need," Mr. Parr said. "So we went on the air to raise money. The first person to call in with a donation was Harold Baxla of Baxla Tractors. It 'snowballed' from there. No kidding."

In that October 2018 interview at Mr. Parr's last remote broadcast from Jerry Haag Motors, Steve Haag, owner of Jerry Haag Motors, said that final time on the air was the last of more than 2,500 remotes over the past 40 years.

"Will, if I could put a name on our friendship over the years, it would be 'memories unlimited,'" Mr. Haag said from his dealership showroom on North High Street. "Thanks for the memories. I'll cherish them for a lifetime. I mean that."

"We've been very blessed to have Will for so many years with us," Mr. Haag said. "We are going to miss him."

Throughout his more than six decades on the air, Mr. Parr announced thousands of weather-related cancellations of events and school closings. For those of a certain pre-cell phone and pre-internet age, the only way to know of a potential school closing on a cold and snowy winter morning was to tune in to 1590 AM and listen to Will Parr.

During the early days of his broadcasting career, Mr. Parr also served as a member of the Hillsboro Police Department. He was involved with the Hillsboro Retail Merchants Association as well as numerous other civic organizations throughout Adams, Brown and Highland counties.

He was a graduate of Belfast High School and a graduate of Clear Channel University’s Professional Development Program.

Over the years, Mr. Parr received many awards and honors.

On the state level, he was inducted into the Ohio Broadcasters Hall of Fame and the Ohio Associated Press Hall of Fame. He was a member of the Clear Channel Radio President’s Club and has received the Country Music Milestone Award. He has been awarded as “A Friend in Education” by the Southern Ohio Educational Center. Mr. Parr was inducted into the Ohio Associated Press Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 2009 at the Ohio AP Broadcasters convention at the The Hilton at Easton Town Center in Columbus.

He was inducted into the Hall of Fame "for serving with exceptional distinction and honor and upholding the highest ideals of broadcast journalism."

"For an old Country Boy from southern Highland County, this is quite an honor," Mr. Parr told The Highland County Press in October 2009.

John Barney, sales manager with iHeart Radio, said Mr. Parr has always done a lot for the community.

“There are so many things that Will’s done that very few people know about,” Mr. Barney said. “He has been an institution in Highland County.”

Mr. Levo echoed those sentiments.

“To those who know him, you quickly learn Will Parr loves Hillsboro, Highland County and southern Ohio,” Mr. Levo said. “His love of our land, history, residents and their values was not faked. He really enjoyed talking with people, promoting the area’s activities and calling attention to things about the area some people do not know. He was a family man who enjoyed time with his late wife, children and grandchildren.”

The Highland County Board of Commissioners proclaimed Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018 as “Willard Parr Day” in Highland County as Commissioner Jeff Duncan read the proclamation. At the ceremony, someone asked Will to announce just one more school closing. He did so with all the gusto we've come to know for 62 years.

Godspeed, The Voice of Southern Ohio.

– Special thanks to John Levo, John Barney, Steve Haag, Herb Day and Steve Roush.

Turner Funeral Homes is serving the family. Visit their website at https://www.turnerfuneralhomes.cc/

Related story https://highlandcountypress.com/Content/In-The-News/In-The-News/Article/Highland-County-Historical-Society-enshrines-four-more-in-Hall-of-Fame/2/20/52125?s=1