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“Will it still be Jamestown tomorrow?” someone asked on Thursday morning. Like saying, “See you next year” on New Year’s Eve, everyone knows the whole world can change with a single tick of the clock.
Within 24 hours of Jim Roselle’s passing in the small hours of Wednesday morning, March 23, 2016, word had spread of Jamestown’s great loss. Whether by word of mouth, on social media, in the press or over his beloved WJTN airwaves, the world quickly learned that Jim Roselle would no longer be able to share his famous morning Cup of Happiness with his community, his thousands of friends and his family.
But Jim’s friends need only remember his every morning greeting, beamed into their kitchens, their car radios, their workplaces and even into milking parlors of local farms where the cows were said to have given better milk for listening, “Good morning Jamestown, friends and neighbors. Welcome to the Jim Roselle Show. This happens to be the first day of the rest of your life.”
On learning of Jim’s passing, his longtime friend and Chautauqua broadcast sparring buddy, Mark Russell, said, “Jamestown and Chautauqua without Jim Roselle? Like a martini without the gin, it will take awhile getting used to it.”
“I’m sure he’s already got a microphone in his hand and his voice is gracing the airwaves of Heaven,” listener and friend, Catherine Colvin of Lakewood said.
Fortunately, if that is so, the transmitter there is surely better than the one Mark Russell kidded Jim about when he said, “The Jim Roselle show on WJTN can be heard from Jamestown, New York all the way to Mayville, New York and occasionally to Westfield, New York. On a clear day. The WJTN transmitter is powered by a union hamster running on a circular treadmill relieved by a substitute hamster on weekends.”
The key to Roselle’s broadcast success may have come from his often stated conviction that “Everyone has, no…everyone is a story. And they should be heard.” That comment revealed the kind of humility that made Jim a radio interviewer of rare and fabled skill. He preferred to help his on-air, on-the-phone and Dew Drop In studio guests tell their own stories rather than tell his own.
For Jim Roselle, his is a story about the elevation of the common man to the nobility of great accomplishment. At the same time, it is the story of the common humanity shared by world leaders, pedestalled celebrities, celebrated scientists, athletes and astronauts and even a few famous Rascals.
A Jim Roselle FaceBook friend said, “Wonderfully humble, Jim was always surprised that his popularity spanned the globe. He often reflected he was just Jim Roselle, and that he grew up in Jamestown… ‘what do these people see in me that is so special… that makes me so different from anyone else? I’m just a hometown boy…’ You will be greatly missed. Your story will live forever.”
Jim did, however, eventually relent and allow his own story to be told, after years of encouragement by so many friends over so many years, perhaps most pointedly his good friends and local community leaders, Bill and Pat Locke of Dewittville, New York. The clincher for Jim, though, was that his story would be best told by telling the stories of the wonderful people he introduced to his audience for 61 years at WJTN and 41 years from Chautauqua Institution.
Whether world famous guests at Chautauqua Institution or local mom & pop shop owners, they were all simply Jim’s friends and he delighted in inviting his radio neighbors to meet them one-on-one at his broadcast table.
But, perhaps more important, Jim wanted his story told – his memoir written – as what some would call a love letter to the future generations of family he knew he would never meet…the grandchildren and great grandchildren still to come. Jim and his wife of 40 years, Kathleen “Kathy” Billgren Roselle, have six children and a still-growing clan of “grands”, both locally and across the United States.
Family was everything to James Samuel Roselle, the son, along with three brothers and three sisters, of Joseph and Josephine Parasiliti Roselle. Born on “Tax Day” April 15, 1926, Jim was often said by friends to have brought at least a little sunshine to that infamous date. “Andare nel sole,” his mother always told him. “Go in the sunshine.”
Jim once recalled to a friend that, back in the old days when his friends, the kids on the block, his old Franklin Street Gang, saw the sun set and the street lights come on, it would be time to go home. In his memoir, “The Best Times Of My Life*” are these words:
“At the end of the day, as the streetlights come on and we all go home, Jim will sign off as he does every day on his radio show, “Thank you for your company. Take good care of this day. Live, love and enjoy.”
Good night, Jim Roselle. Thank you for your company. Rest in peace.