Updated: 23 hours ago
OBERLIN, OH - Gary Tollett's story is a testament to the power of perseverance and second chances. Almost 20 years ago, Gary quit his union job, moved back in with his parents, and enrolled in The Ohio Center for Broadcasting to pursue his dream of being a radio personality. He got his start as an intern at WOBL 1320AM, a family-owned station in Oberlin, Ohio.
After graduation, Gary had a short stint with another station before returning to WOBL's sister station, Kool Kat Oldies 1380AM WDLW. He was offered the afternoon drive show on Kool Kat, but advertising revenue was down, and the station couldn't pay him initially. Undeterred, Gary took the job anyway and eventually joined the sales staff. He fell in love with the power of local radio and was living his dream.
However, it all ended three short years later when Gary got caught up in partying and didn't appreciate the opportunity he had. He eventually got a job in corporate America and was constantly daydreaming of being back in radio.
Years later, Gary's chance at redemption came, and his love for radio was rekindled. This happened when he met Doug and Lorie Wilber, the owners of WOBL and WDLW radio stations, for lunch. The Wilbers, who had known Gary since he was an intern, asked him if he would want to own the radio stations. Gary thought it was a joke, but the Wilbers were serious. They had met thousands of people in the community, but they chose Gary to take over their family's legacy. Dreams do come true, and Gary, along with his wife Renee, became the proud owners of WOBL and WDLW radio stations in 2021.
But Tollett's impact extends beyond the radio waves. He has organized numerous events to raise money for charities and to help those in need. One of his most memorable events was the 24-hour lock-in. During this event, Tollett broadcasted live on the air for 24 hours straight. He did not leave the station, and he did not stop talking. His goal was to raise money for the Second Harvest Food Bank, and he succeeded. Tollett raised over $17,000 for the Food Bank in total from his first and second year exploring this unique fundraising concept, and the money went to provide nearly 120,000 meals to individuals throughout the community who struggle with food insecurity.
Recently, Gary had a visit from Gremi from CleveItToUs, who filmed a segment of his show at Gary's Kool Kat station, WDLW. During his visit, Gremi got a full tour of the radio station, met with Gary, his wife Renee, and some of their staff. Gremi mentioned that one of his biggest inspirations in the industry was Denise Zarrella, who works at Gary's station doing the morning news. Gremi and Denise have remained friends for over 16 years, and she was the first person to feature Gremi in a news story when she worked for Cleveland 19 News.
Gary Tollett's story is a reminder that dreams do come true with hard work, perseverance, and a second chance. If you live in Lorain County or are looking for a new radio station to listen to, be sure to tune in to WOBL and WDLW online or on your radio dial; and don't forget to watch the segment of CleveItToUs filmed at WDLW and get inspired by Gary's journey to becoming a radio station owner.
A Special Thanks to Gary and Renee Tollett, WBOL/WDLW and their staff and crew. Ashley Shack (Audio/Visual Tech), Denise Zarrella | Music: Johnathan Pushkar - Vocals, Bass, Drums Luke Wood - Vocals, Guitar, Organ, Mixing, Mastering, Video Editing Brett McCutcheon, Saxophone, Filming, Looking Good In The Video Bob McCutcheon - Engineering - Youtubes: @LukeBWoodVideos, @JohnathanPushkar & @brettmccutcheon9712
ORIGINAL AIRDATE: 4/18/2023