Jan. 16, 2005 Friends, colleagues and well-wishers described Lee Carle Sunday night as "bighearted" and "dedicated to his community," saying he had a "flair for the dramatic,"a "propensity for being late" and a "tendency to overtake other members of the media" as they celebrated the veteran broadcaster's 50 years in broadcasting in the Virgin Islands.
Many of his broadcast colleagues said their successful careers were jump-started by Carle, who gave them direction early on. James O' Bryan Jr., spokesman for the Governor and St. Thomas/Water Island administrator, who served as master of ceremonies for the celebration held at Victor's New Hideout, said, "He told me 'You have possibilities in broadcasting' as long as I let him teach me."
Former Delegate to Congress Ron de Lugo, known on theairwaves as Mango Jones, recalled the first day he met Carle in 1954 when Carle walked into WSTA's then-studio a bunker in Frenchtown in what de Lugo described as his wool "zoot suit" fresh from Albany, N.Y.
De Lugo told him, "You'll be doing the six o'clock news."
Carle said,"Okay,"and asked, "Where's the news ticker?"
De Lugo tossed him a copy of the New York Times and said, "Just read this."
Carle looked at it and said, "But this is two days old."
De Lugo replied, "Nobody cares."
Carle shared a few of his own memories of that first day, saying he walked into the makeshift studio to find "this barefoot guy drinking a beer and listening to music." The guy was Mango Jones/de Lugo. Carle recalled the microphone was hanging from a rope, with a rock on the other side to balance it.
And so the evening went, with one person after another sharing stories and anecdotes about Carle and the "old days" of broadcasting in the Virgin Islands.
Former Attorney General Iver Stridiron had the audience roaring with laughter as he told three stories of Carle's influence and character. Stridiron called them the chopper one story, the pissing contest and the Cinema One riot. In the pissing contest, Stridiron, a senator at the time, challenged then-governor Juan Luis to take a urine test after Luis suggested making all government employees submit to random testing. Luis didn't trust the laboratories in the V.I., Stridiorn said, so the two took off to Puerto Rico, accompanied by Carle, who Stridiron said might even have accompanied Luis into "the stall."
Carle, with his "flair for the dramatic," found a white lab coat, put it on, and, speaking into the camera he had brought with him said, "This is Lee Carle broadcasting to you from Puerto Rico."
Later in the evening, in complete character, Carle corrected Stridiron on a few points, noting that the lab coat was green, not white.
The chopper one story reflected Carle's influence over the years. After Hurricane Hugo devastated the territory in 1989, then-Gov. Alexander Farrelly traveled between the islands in a helicopter that Carle dubbed "Chopper One." The designation caught on so well that Farrelly himself referred to it that way after awhile, Stridiron said.
Eustace Grant, former president of the V.I. Taxi Association, who is well known for his expertise about and coverage of cricket matches, recalled being on a cruise ship event with Carle.
"The ship's captain was about to get up and give his speech when Lee said, 'No, you can't start, I'm not ready yet.'"
The favorite Lee Carle story of the night was the well-known, often retold one of the night in March 1979 when Carle was arrested during a live broadcast because he refused to leave the West Indian Company dock where the cruise ship Angelina Lauro was engulfed in flames that subsequently destroyed her.
Carle, as he was insisting upon his First Amendment rights to broadcast the news, was arrested by then-Police Chief David Cantor on the orders of Police Commissioner Milton Branch all of it heard by the listening audience.
Eddie Delagarde, spokesman for Delegate Donna M. Christensen, said whenever he hears a siren he automatically tunes in to WSTA because he knows Carle will be there. "He's everywhere," Delagarde said. "I think he's cloned."
And wherever he is, it was clear Sunday night, he is providing service to the community and the community loves him for it.
From the nurses' sorority members, who were there to honor him for always "being there" for their special events, to Sen. Lorraine Berry, who said she has introduced a resolution in the Legislature to honor Carle for his 50 years of service, the love and appreciation for Carle's dedication was overflowing.
"I tried to practice crying just a little bit," Carle said in his dry-humored way as he got up to speak at the end of the evening, "But I am just so overjoyed."
That was despite being burglarized on Thursday while he was at work. Carle lost more than equipment and some jewelry. He lost some valuable memorabilia and history too, including cufflinks he was given by former Gov. Melvin Evans, and years worth of interviews and tapes he had recorded.
But as he left the podium Sunday night his parting words were, "I won't forget."
And it was clear neither will the community he has served.
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