Dave Patterson of Standish was a unique voice and the force behind community radio station 97.1 FM, WJZF. Patterson passed away unexpectedly last month from complications of diabetes. He was 64.
A comical character, Patterson got his start in radio in the service, where he spinned records all over the world. He spent 20 years in the Navy and settled in Maine in the 1980s. He recently retired from the post office, due in large part from his ongoing struggle with diabetes. But being a radio persona was his true identity.
“All he ever wanted to do was be at home and enjoy radio broadcasting from his studio,” notes his niece, Kristie Doyle, of Windham, who is also a DJ at the station.
Last January marked six years for WJZF, which is still on the air. Patterson’s passing has forced a drastic reduction in the station’s programming, which has always been a low-budget analog operation with the studio located right in Patterson’s Standish home. Patterson poured his own resources into it. The transmitter is on a cellphone tower at the Standish town hall. Most programs were pre-recorded on CDs and loaded into a queue.
“He only ever had a couple of days’ worth of programming,” Doyle said. “As his health deteriorated, he was less able to keep up with it.”
Patterson was everything at WJZF. As a result, the station went silent soon after he passed. Despite a 24/7 programming schedule that had included 25-odd shows with oldies, jazz, country, and community news, Patterson was the only one that possessed fundamental details like a website password and the knowledge to keep the electronics going.
“After he died we took WJZF off the air for a few days to figure out what to do,” Doyle said. “Nobody was able to run the programming at his house. We have a decoder box at the transmitter. Currently, there is an hour long ‘Country Barn’ playing continuously. We hope to add a dedication to Uncle Dave to that program as well.”
Because Patterson co-hosted “Country Barn” with Doyle, you can still hear his comical antics on the air.
Patterson and his endeavor were unique. Launching a community radio station in a market dominated by fewer and fewer big-name corporate players has all but vanished in today’s world. Early on, Patterson formed the Standish Citizens Educational Organization, Inc., as a nonprofit venture to get things off the ground.
A big boost came at the end of last year when President Obama signed the Local Community Radio Act, which opened up air space to small-time stations. WJZF, whose signal is currently limited to parts of Standish, Gorham and Windham, had plans to expand into the Portland market through an Internet translator that would have allowed radio dials to pick up the signal in Greater Portland.
Those plans are on hold for now. Doyle is doing all she can to maintain stringent FCC requirements, such as station identification, and is looking into the possibility of locating a new studio in a house she hopes to build in either Raymond or Casco. The transmitter would remain in Standish.
“Right now were waiting for his estate and probate to be settled,” Doyle said. “His house where the current studio is will have to be sold.”
In her conversations with other radio professionals, Doyle has learned the FCC may allow exceptions in certain circumstances like her uncle’s untimely death. A new studio within 25 miles of the transmitter may be permitted.
Doyle said that going digital would make things much easier and is one of the goals for the future of WJZF.
“That way more than one person can program the show schedule,” she said. “All the DJs can be involved should something happen to anybody.”
Doyle looks forward to the day she can honor her uncle, who had no children of his own, by broadcasting unique programing and his vision of a community radio station for the Lakes Region.
“He had a famous saying when we’d talk on the phone,” Doyle recalls. “Instead of saying goodbye, he’d say, ‘Over and out, AM and FM.’ ”
For more information on WJZF, or if you’d like to get involved, contact Doyle at [email protected]
Don Perkins is a freelance writer who lives in Raymond. He can be reached at: