WESTERLY, R.I. (WJAR) — Westerly radio station WBLQ on Friday announced the death of its owner, Chris DiPaola.
DiPaola died suddenly on Thursday night at his home of apparent heart failure. He was 49 years old.
His family, friends and everyone at the radio station is stunned by the tragic loss.
Like many who have worked or still work in radio, Chris found his calling as a kid, and worked it his whole life, with a passion.
DiPaola grew up listening to WNBC New York and knew early on that's what he wanted to do.
"When we were teenagers and we all ordered food, and Chris ordered a glass of water, ad we were like, 'What's going on, Chris?' He said, 'I'm saving every dime, I have to buy a radio station,'" lifelong friend Caswell Cooke told NBC 10 News.
He started a private radio station as a teen, eventually buying into Westerly's AM 1230WBLQ.
"Today in 2022, having an AM station that is successful, profitable, he was able to do that. Not many people can do that," said business partner Steve Conti.
"Chris had the biggest heart I've ever known, of everybody. If you were friends with Chris, you were family," said John Botello, I-105.5 and 1450AM.
WBLQ recently sought to extend the lease for its radio tower in Westerly. The town agreed to a five-year extension. DiPaola had sought a 20-year lease.
Just hours before he died, he was at Enchanting Reflections Salon with his wife, and three-year old son, who was getting a trim on his birthday.
It's very sad. I didn't have to see him. If I heard him, I knew Chris was there. You just knew his voice, was so distinct. And he was at every townie thing possible," said Vanessa Blum with Enchanting Reflections Salon. "I don't know anyone else would go the lengths that Chris did for his advertisers, for the community, he just can't be replaced."
Somehow, those left behind will pick up the pieces to keep Chris' memory and stations alive.
"It's thanks to Chris DiPaola and his dream-that this has transpired- his dream of owning, nurturing, and fostering, successful, local radio. His family is part of my family going way way back. All the love and prayers to all in Chris's familial circle," a message on the station's Facebook page said. "This is heartbreaking!"
Arrangements are still being made to honor DiPaola's life and legacy.