• Staff Member Celebrates 40th Work Anniversary

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    October 21, 2019

    HOLLAND (WHTC-AM/FM) -- Patty Vandenberg has reached a goal very few in radio reach: She's been at one radio station, WHTC, for 40 years. (See a photo gallery of her over the years -- and hear Patty get surprised on the air in this podcast.)

    On Oct. 17, 1979, she started working here as a commercial scheduler -- in radio, that's called doing traffic -- using pencils, giant spreadsheets, and three large binders to organize the on-air advertising in handwriting, then typing up the list as part of the studio logs.

    These days, she still schedules commercials, a computerized job, but Patty wears so many other hats -- administrative assistant, receptionist, gate keeper, and of course, she's the voice of What's New Around Holland, which airs live, at 10:25 a.m., Monday through Friday.

    It became her show almost by accident, about 35 years ago, she said, when then-host Kay Felker developed a terrible case of laryengentisis.

    "She and (long-time host Juke Van Oss) had a conversation, and he suggested to her, 'Why don't you have Patty do it?'" she said.

    I was nervous as could be," she said. "I was just ... My hands were all sweaty and clammy -- and I remember the very first word that I misspoke on the air. Because I pronounced the word like it looked. It was potpourri."

    Then she laughed, remembering the calls that followed from listeners, eager to correct her. She felt a little awkward, fielding her own complaint calls, but she thanked everyone, "because I don't intentionally mispronounce something."

    Felker liked how Vandenberg sounded on the air.

    "After she got her voice back and she was sounding and feeling better, I was, like, 'Go back to your show,'" Vandenberg you recalled. "And she was, like, 'No. The show is yours.'"

    Over the years, she and Van Oss developed a pre-show routine. He always greeted her with "Hey there, Sunshine, you're the bright spot in my day."

    Over the years, she said, the hardest part of her job is reading the obituaries of people she knows and loves, like Juke Van Oss, former morning show host Ken Showers, and family members, which is "really rough. There's no getting around that," she said. "I'll go out, wipe away a few tears. I'll apologize to my coworkers for falling apart like a cheap suit, but like I say, first and foremost, I'm a human being."

    She does her best, though, to remain professional on the air. She understands what it's like to hear a loved one's obituary on the radio, because she remembers hearing her substitute read her great-uncle's -- on the air before her dad could notify her.

    These days, callers to the Juke Van Oss Building often recognize Vandenberg's voice on the other end of the line -- and sometimes, in public, too.

    "It's kind of nice to hear," she said, smiling. Credit her voice to her time singing as a student in West Ottawa High's choir.

    The Allegan native moved to Ottawa County in 1969, graduating from West Ottawa High. She and her husband Steve spend much of their free time antiquing, at tractor pulls or with family.

    Vandenberg has seen a lot of changes -- she is, after all, working in a field where people typically switch jobs every two or three years -- but her love of her work and her appreciation for the stations' current parent company, Midwest Communications, shines through, every day.

    She has a great sense of humor, and will laugh when she reads what her boss here, Kevin Oswald had to say:

    "Patty's primary duty is to make sure the coffee pot is kept full for me," he said. "I am continually astounded by her spot-on performance of this task."

    In truth: She keeps our feet on the ground. She gets us through the toughest days with her consistent warmth and steadiness. That's just a little of what her coworkers are celebrating today.

    Kevin Oswald, Market Manager-Holland
    (616) 392-3121 Ext 120

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