Aspen news veteran John Noonan dies
August 7, 2008
ASPEN ” The former longtime voice of news in Aspen ” John C. Noonan ” died late Tuesday at Aspen Valley Hospital after a battle with cancer.
Local audiences knew Noonan as a longtime broadcaster with KAJX, now known as Aspen Public Radio, where he delivered the morning news.
He was also the co-host of a weekly interview show, Aspen Media Review, along with longtime Aspen resident Brian O’Neil. The pair interviewed authors, radio commentators and others.
Noonan had been on the air for nearly 14 years when Brent Gardner-Smith, former executive director at Aspen Public Radio, shook up the station’s programming schedule and personnel, eliminating Aspen Media Review and other programs in March 2006. Noonan retired from the station the end of that year.
Noonan, 70, moved to Aspen from Philadelphia in 1990 and fell into public radio after working as a marketing director for TV Guide. His work on Aspen Media Review led to a stint as the morning news director at the station, according to his sister, Aspen resident Austine Stitt.
Though his role in disseminating radio news was inherently a faceless one, Noonan became the face of KAJX, recalled Jane Erb, former chairwoman of the station’s board of directors.
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“He’s a person who really personified KAJX radio,” Erb said. “He was pretty much known as Mr. KAJX. I think a lot of it had to do with John’s enthusiasm for the station.”
“John was a consummate gentleman whose passion for broadcasting and the arts was only exceeded by his devotion to Aspen Public Radio,” station manager Meredith Carroll said in a prepared statement. “On the air and off, he was the station’s biggest champion. The staff, board and volunteers of Aspen Public Radio ” past and present ” will miss him terribly.”
Working with Noonan on the Aspen Media Review show was both enjoyable and, at times, chaotic, said his co-host, O’Brien. Their interviews, O’Brien said, touched on most every aspect of what makes Aspen unique ” from The Aspen Institute to the town’s cultural institutions.
“John was a person who loved the media ” he loved what he was doing and loved the community,” O’Brien said. “I think it was an important contribution John made to the community.”
Among his duties at the station, Noonan headed up the station’s underwriting efforts for a time, Erb said, but it was his on-air persona for which he was best known.
Noonan was not a trained newscaster, and on the air, he had an idiosyncratic, unpolished manner.
“He had his own distinct style and his voice was very recognizable,” Erb said.
Many KAJX listeners received their first local news of the day from Noonan, who often read aloud from Aspen’s local newspapers during his newscasts.
“For years, John Noonan’s voice was the voice of KAJX in the early morning,” recalled Kathryn Koch, Aspen’s city clerk and an Aspen Public Radio listener. “I woke up to John Noonan five days a week.”
A Mass of Christian Burial for Noonan will take place Monday, Aug. 11 at 10 a.m. at St. Mary Church in Aspen. He will be buried in Aspen.