JOHNSTOWN - After more than a quarter-century of radio broadcasting, Joey Caruso is stepping away from the microphone.
Known for his fundraising and community involvement, Caruso has used radio stations WIZR-AM and WSRD-FM in Johnstown for both local and long-distance fundraising.
He is credited with raising $40 million over the years for St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital as well as the Farano Center for Children, a home for babies with AIDS.
The Leader-Herald/Bill Trojan
Joey Caruso poses for a photo Nov. 24 outside St. Anthony’s Church in Johnstown.
In 1999, Caruso sold the radio stations to Albany Broadcasting and has been consulting with that company since.
He said he is stepping down from that position as well in order to spend more time with family.
"I'm retiring from active broadcasting," Caruso said. "It's a very different grind when you're up at 3 a.m. six or seven days a week. At 62 years old, it's hard to do."
Steve Serge, director of the Fulton County YMCA, said Caruso has been instrumental in the successful consolidation and fundraising for the new county YMCA facility.
"I think [Caruso] is the greatest," Serge said. "That's the first thing that comes to mind."
Serge said he has been working with Caruso since 1994, when the YMCA had its first radiothon fundraiser.
"I remember we were broadcasting from upstairs over the Rainbow Restaurant," Serge said. "We raised $80,000 that first time out."
Serge said that over the years, the radiothon has been simulcast with the local Cable TV station and has become more successful each year as a staple of fundraising for the YMCA.
"It was all because of the seed [Caruso] planted that first year," Serge said. "And he hasn't only been helpful with the Y. Every telethon I participate in I make the statement, 'Nobody does more for the kids at St. Jude's.'"
Caruso said his immediate plans were a bit up in the air.
"My wife [Linda] has been ill," he said. "She's doing better now, but I'm taking the rest of the year off."
Caruso said he bought the radio stations in 1982, and for all the news, sports, music and entertainment that was broadcast over the years, he most remembers community fundraising. He said helping with the needy and disadvantaged was the highlight of his career.
"I don't look back at that," he said. "I was doing it for my hometown."
Caruso said others who had tried to run the radio station had ended in bankruptcy. And oddly enough, before becoming general manager of the station, he had been a hair dresser. But he has good memories of time spent behind the microphone.
"They were the best years of my life," he said. "I did it all with just a high school diploma."
Caruso said his talent and ability was God-given, and therefore, he felt a need to give back to the community.
"We did well," he said. "But I can't keep doing in my 60s what I did in my 30s. It was time to retire."
Caruso said he wanted to thank his supporters and listeners, sponsors and friends. He is looking forward to more consulting in the future and spending time with his wife, three children and three grandchildren.
"Since 1982, it has been one great journey," Caruso said. "There have been a lot of laughs and tears for the countless events hosted by [the community] and WIZR."
Richard Nilsen is a general assignment reporter and can be reached at email@example.com