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Michiana Chronicles writers bring portraits of our life and times to the 88.1 WVPE airwaves every Friday at 7:45 am during Morning Edition and over the noon hour at 12:30 pm during Here and Now. Michiana Chronicles was first broadcast in October 2001. Contact the writers through their individual e-mails and thanks for listening!

Good-bye, Lee

Here between the major merchandising events of the manufactured sentimentality of Christmas and the massive schmaltz of Valentine’s Day, we in Michiana have an opportunity for a big ol’ wallow in genuine emotion. As you may have heard both from David James’s Michiana Chronicle last week and from the promo spot for this coming Saturday night’s Jazz by the Border, WVPE Program Director, Lee Burdorf, is retiring.

Seven years ago, I came to this studio to record my first Michiana Chronicle. I was happy for the opportunity but a bit intimidated by the whole process and by the man who is the processor. What if I messed up? Would he remain patient and cheerful, or even just civil? The whole scenario reminded me of the old Mary Tyler Moore Show with me as the spunky Mary and Lee Burdorf as the irascible, but lovable, Lou Grant. You may remember Mr. Grant snarling, “I hate spunk.” Seemed as though I might easily be doomed. Well, I was right and I was wrong. Mr. Burdorf is irascible, but lovable; he probably does hate spunk—I’ve never dared ask—but even when I do mess up, he remains professional and civil. I’m an amateur with no pretensions of being anything else. He’s a pro. He really knows his stuff and is very good at what he does, and it’s been a joy to spend time with him.

Plus, as a bonus in my position as a Chronicler, I have the opportunity to sound a tad high-falutin’ when, at some WVPE event such as the upcoming Meet Me in the Gallery at the South Bend Museum of Art, as I introduce people I’m with to him, I get to casually throw in the phrase, “my producer, Lee.” Such fun!

During what is now termed the “membership campaign,” but as an old-timer I still think of as “pledge-drive,” I was answering the telephone and took a call from a man in California. In the “comments” section of our brief talk, this stranger from the west coast said that he listened to Jazz by the Border on his computer every week because Lee Burdorf was one of the most knowledgeable people in the country about the jazz scene, both past and present. And, lest we think that that guy was some friend of Lee’s, the classic “plant in the audience,” I’ve heard this respect for Lee’s knowledge of jazz echoed in the opinions of both musicians and jazz aficionados in this area too.

But it’s not just jazz that he knows. He has an encyclopedic knowledge of most all music. You know those music spots at the end of each week’s Michiana Chronicle? They’re almost all selected by Lee, and they’re almost always spot on. Away-from-Michiana people to whom I send the Chronicles frequently comment on how the perfect the music is and how that musical selection really illustrates and enhances the verbiage.

Talk about the classic good news/bad news story! That’s Lee’s retirement. People deserve to get to retire if they want to. I got to retire and have had some really good years that have been so fun and full that I’ve wondered how I ever had time to be employed. Lee should have this opportunity too, but . . .

In my family there is a joke that “When Jeanette says good-by, sit down, it will be at least 20 minutes before we actually leave.” I do have a hard time saying “good-by.” But, if I take 20 minutes here, Mr. Burdorf will cut me off. So, unfamiliar as I am with brevity, I’ll say, “Godspeed, Lee,” then quote Bob Hope:

“Thanks for the memory.

Awfully glad I met you,
Cheerio and toodle-oo
Thank you,
Thank you so much.”

For Michiana Chronicles, with my producer, Lee Burdorf, this is Jeanette Saddler Taylor.

Jeanette Saddler Taylor lives and writes in South Bend where she is retired, but is active in several community organizations.
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