TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTHI) – Retirement is something most people look forward to, except for those who enjoy their jobs. That’s the case for HI-99’s Barry Kent, who hung up the headphones on Wednesday for the last time.
That morning, Barry was kind enough to share his final couple of hours in radio with us. During the time, we heard a lot of stories, but most importantly, we heard a heart-felt goodbye from a man who truly loved bringing “The Wabash Valley’s Country Station” to his countless listeners.
For many years, the morning voice you’ve heard coming from HI-99 WTHI has been the voice of Barry Kent.
Barry Kent: “HI-99 WTHI. Good morning, it’s a beautiful Wednesday. Come on out to Summer Bash out at Fairbanks Park featuring Parmalee. It’s absolutely free. Come out and enjoy.”
The morning of July 16 at times sounded like any other…
Barry Kent: “HI-99 WTHI, The Wabash Valley’s Country Station. Kid rock, “All Summer Long.” It doesn’t feel like summer out there. Temperature only 54 degrees….”
But this morning was unlike any other, as it was the last time Barry Kent would man the mic at HI-99. And he gave us a stroll down 45 years of memory lane.
“So, I’m listening to one segment, and I’m thinking ‘what is that?’ It’s my phone whistling in the background as I got a text (laughs)!” That was one of many stories Barry told us during our visit.
His personality and laugh is what many listeners of HI-99 have come to love.
Barry said he got his start in radio in 1969 at WWVR-FM, a gospel station in those days. Before long, he moved on to WBOW. Then he got a call from an old friend.
“Kevin Orpurt was working at WTHI-TV; Kevin had worked for me at WBOW,” Barry recalled. “So Kevin gave me a call one day and said, ‘hey, the program director for WTHI just left. You ought to come down and apply for the job.”
The rest is history.
Barry was hired as program director and he began building one of the most successful country music radio stations in the U.S.
“We really wanted the station to become a part of the community,” said Barry. “We were involved in everything, we were everywhere, we wanted to reach out and touch the listeners, we didn’t talk at them, we talked with them, we lived out lives on the radio, and we were just one of the listeners.”
Under Barry’s leadership, HI-99 accomplished just that, scoring 35 market share numbers in the 90’s, which are unheard of today.
Barry’s last day included guests and phone calls from listeners.
But nothing could prepare him for what happened at 9:52. Oh, he knew it was coming, but how can you say good-bye to 45 years and a job you love so much? Only Barry Kent could find such words.
From the Book of Timothy: “I fought the good fight. I finished my course, and I’ve kept the faith. So thank you for listening all of these years.”
Barry also said, “I don’t want to say goodbye. I’ll just say see you around, alright?”
Barry told us he’s not sure what’s next for him, but he knows he’s going to do something. He certainly plans to spend more time with his wife and two sons. And he’s going to try something new called “sleeping in.”
We wish Barry nothing but the best.