The Guy in the Chair Next to Me

by Melissa Brunner

The title of this blog, these days, applies to Ralph Hipp (and Jeremy and J.B., too). But when I first started anchoring weekends at WIBW way back when, those guys were Rob Peppers during the weather segment, and Ron Paradis doing sports. You couldn't ask for two better people to share the set, and the weekend newsroom, with as a young broadcaster barely finding her footing. It's what made it so tough to learn of Ron's passing.

Ron had a passion for ensuring he imparted the flavor and feel of a game to his viewers. To that end, he wanted to be sure key plays and game-changing moments were included in his highlights. One weekend, a Chiefs game was down to the wire. They were on the move, knowing a field goal would give them the win. When I left the newsroom, Ron was glued to the television, tape rolling, waiting for that key highlight. Meanwhile, in the studio, we got to the commercial before sports. No Ron. The open was rolling for the sports segment. Still no Ron. They tell me in my ear that he's coming down the hallway, so they come out to me to stall while Ron runs into the studio and grabs his microphone. I think I said something about there was a game, an exciting game, so exciting we can't wait for Ron to tell you about it, and oh - here he is! But we got that key highlight on the air!

My husband, Doug, was one of the photographers who had the privilege of working with Ron on NCAA Tournament trips. He would often recall one trip where Coach Lute Olson was declining any one-on-one interviews with media - until he saw Ron. On a trip with another sports reporter, Coach Gene Keady recognized the logo on the microphone and asked how Ron was doing. That's just how highly he was regarded in the sports world. There also was the time Doug and Ron had the nightmare travel rearrangements after an unexpected KU loss in Birmingham - Ron's cure was a stop for barbecue in Lawrence when they finally made it back!

As much as people remember the funny stuff - the "Paradis Productions" - Ron could tackle the tough stuff, too. When we were moving out of the old building, we found a bunch of Ron's old files. Among them was a typewritten copy of a "Ron's World" commentary segment. It was about an outstanding high school basketball player, playing the game of his life just after the death of his mother. In it, he wrote that participating in sports "goes beyond glory and adulation." In choosing to play, a young athlete "found refuge from his confusion and heartache and misery."

We see often how sporting events can bring us together; can help us, if only for a few hours, set aside the distractions in life.  For three decades, Ron was the conduit through which we could take refuge. Since we learned the news last night, those of us "old-timers" around the newsroom are swapping stories of our favorite Ron moments. He may be gone, but, in his memories, we continue to find refuge.



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