State Rep. Brian S. Dempsey, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, discussed the challenges that had to be overcome to bring WHAV back to Haverhill. (All photographs by Cindy Driver.)
The new 97.9 WHAV FM was formally inaugurated Thursday night on the 70th anniversary of the founding of the original AM radio station. The celebration was marked by greetings and citations from state and city officials, live musical performances and a salute to the founder of the station, John T. Russ.
During a live broadcast from Maria’s in downtown Haverhill, state Rep. Brian S. Dempsey acknowledged the difficulty in bringing WHAV back to the community.
“I want you to know, because I’ve heard this from so many people that are much more versed in the challenges with the FCC, that in the fall of 2013 when Tim (Coco) submitted an application to get a license to get an FM signal recognized—that was no easy task and an uphill battle. And, people in the industry were, I think, not only impressed, but amazed that you were able to do that successfully.”
Haverhill Mayor James J. Fiorentini told the audience no matter where he goes each day, he hears people talking about enjoying WHAV. He presented congratulations from the Commonwealth.
“I have here a citation from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to WHAV FM 97.9 on behalf of the citizens of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, I’m pleased to confer upon you the governor’s citation in recognition of your inauguration ceremony, signed the governor of Massachusetts, Charlie Baker. Tim, congratulations. It’s an honor to be here folks. Thank you so much. Congratulations Tim.”
WHAV also received congratulations from Haverhill City Council Vice President Melinda E. Barrett, on behalf of the full City Council, and Joseph J. Bevilacqua, president of the Merrimack Valley Chamber of Commerce.
Master of Ceremonies Rick O’Shey, who began at WHAV in 1984, launched the ceremonies the way radio stations have long marked the beginnings of their broadcast days. He introduced local soloist Latriah Masters who sang the National Anthem.
Additional entertainment came from members of the Haverhill High School Chorus, Emily Forisso, Chloe Reynolds and Joseph Pazzanese. During one portion of the program, Forisso and Reynolds performed ““Black Horse and a Cherry Tree.”
Pazzanese sang “L-O-V-E.” Other songs performed live were “House Of The Rising Sun” by Forisso and “Unforgettable” by Reynolds.
Salute to WHAV Founder Russ Brings Tears
During a moving part of the ceremony, Coco discussed the man who first brought WHAV to the city on March 16, 1947.
“During this portion of the program, I thought it was fitting that we talk about the founder of WHAV—the person with the original vision. I simply copied it. I brought it back, but the person who really had the vision for a radio station in Haverhill was John Taylor Russ.”
Russ’ remarks opening the station from temporary studios in downtown Haverhill were played.
“WHAV is going to be your station — a station for the people of Haverhill and the people in our surrounding towns. What concerns you directly, your lives and businesses, your community betterment will always get first priority on the WHAV airwaves,” Russ told the radio audience.
For Russ granddaughters Rachel Gallagher and Rebecca Nordengren and great granddaughters Kacey Oreal, Kallie Rossi and Leanne (Wholley) Scott, it was the first time they heard his voice.
“We’re just grateful that you reached out to us because when we thought we had the opportunity, we were right on it. We were so excited and it brought us to tears as soon as we heard it. Good luck. So, thank you so much.”