WLS-TV announcer dies

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Posted by chicagomedia.org on October 13, 2009 at 10:17:45:

Wayne S. Atkinson, 1926-2009: WLS-TV announcer who loved to paint

By Bob Goldsborough
Special to the Tribune
October 13, 2009

Although Wayne S. Atkinson worked almost 34 years at WLS-Ch. 7 as a booth announcer, his principal love was watercolors, and he spent more than four decades painting, teaching art and happily giving his artwork as gifts to others.

After retiring in 1989, Mr. Atkinson focused full time on his artwork, teaching classes at the DuPage Art League and the College of DuPage.

A resident of Winfield for more than a half-century, Mr. Atkinson, 83, died Thursday, Sept. 24, in Central DuPage Hospital after a long illness.

A Minnesota native, Mr. Atkinson joined the Army Air Forces as a teenager during World War II. After being discharged in 1946, Mr. Atkinson enrolled in radio and television announcer school.

He graduated in 1947 and worked at radio stations in Texas, Minnesota and Mississippi before moving to TV, announcing at a station in Lynchburg, Va., said his wife of 60 years, Barbara. Mr. Atkinson joined WLS as a booth announcer in February 1956.

While at WLS, Mr. Atkinson would sit in a booth with a microphone and a monitor, holding a book filled with live commercials, said Frank Mathie, a longtime friend and colleague who semi-retired from the station in 2006 after almost 40 years as a reporter.

"Wayne was a very good booth announcer," Mathie said. "He was just plain nice too. He would go out of his way to be friendly."

When he was almost 40, Mr. Atkinson began developing his self-taught craft of painting watercolors. Mathie recalled Mr. Atkinson painting in his broadcast booth between announcements.

"He would do his announcement and then he'd get back to his easel," Mathie said.

After 15 years of self-instruction, Mr. Atkinson attended the American Academy of Art in Chicago and subsequently used a variety of media like pencil, pastel and scratchboard.

Among the many recipients of Mr. Atkinson's artwork while he was at WLS were talk-show host Oprah Winfrey and anchors Joel Daly and Linda Yu, all of whom he counted as good friends, his wife said.

After retiring from WLS in December 1989, Mr. Atkinson focused full time on painting. He taught at the College of DuPage and the DuPage Art League -- where he had been a member almost since its 1958 inception -- and incorporated his extensive travels to Europe and Africa into his work.

"Talent is a word I don't subscribe to much," Mr. Atkinson told the Tribune in 1991. "I call it learned ability. If you could see what I did 30 years ago, you wouldn't believe how bad it was. Some people have a little more innate ability than others, but more important is sticking with it and doing it over and over."

In 1996, Mr. Atkinson presented paintings to all 55 members of the staff of Winfield Elementary School District 34.

"Wayne was a giver," said Marge Hall, a past president of the DuPage Art League. "He had a God-given talent, and he didn't believe in hoarding it."

Kay Wahlgren, also a past president of the Art League, recalled both Mr. Atkinson's generosity and his sense of humor.

"What I remember most about him was not just his paintings, but that he was full of jokes," Wahlgren said. "Every time you met him, as he walked out the door he would tell you a joke."

In retirement, Mr. Atkinson also wrote free verse and haiku and taught karate -- he began learning it at age 47 -- to youngsters at the Bruce Lee Academy in Glendale Heights.

In addition to his wife, Mr. Atkinson is survived by two sons, Scott and Gregg; a daughter, Kim; a brother, Dale; and seven grandchildren.

Services were held.

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