(Posted Oct. 19, 2018)
Editor’s note: The following is a letter written by West Jefferson resident Jeff Pfeil in tribute to the late John Kile.
John Kile was not only my friend but also my mentor. After 45 years behind the microphone as the “Voice of the Roughriders,” he retired in 2002. At that time, he requested that I be the next announcer of the West Jefferson High School football games. Many people in town said that I replaced him and others have called me the “Voice of the Roughriders,” but first, you don’t replace a legend, and second, there will only be one “Voice of the Roughriders.” He will forever be known as the one and only.
As I prepared for my first football game in 2002, I was very nervous. I found some football tapes and listened again as John made the announcements for each play. I wanted to continue his success, as well as add my own touch to the game. My dad told me to speak slowly. The first few games, I spoke almost too slowly but learned as time went on.
John told me several times that there are some things you don’t announce. One is the score. He told me that’s what the scoreboard is for. Second is to never announce who fumbled the ball or threw the interception, because the player knew, his mother knew and his girlfriend knew. If the crowd missed it, they didn’t need to know.
As I stood beside John in the press box for about 15 years as his spotter, I was amazed that while he was talking he was listening to me for the runner, the tackler and yards gained. He was listening to Mark Pelphrey for the down and distance for a first down. He also was writing down the stats as he kept the official stats for many years. It still amazes me that he could do all of this in a matter of seconds.
John also announced many parades in town and was the emcee for the queen pageants for the Ox Roast. Eventually, I took over for him with these tasks, as well. John always had a knack for adding a little extra to his announcing when he noticed someone he knew.
John played Santa for the West Jefferson Community Association’s annual Senior Citizens Christmas Party and, just like Santa, he knew everyone and included a personalized joke as he read each name. He also helped to auction off extra roasts at the Ox Roast.
As I said, John also was a friend, a longtime friend. I remember many times going to the after-game parties with the gang–the Kiles, the Lovelesses, the Baldwins and the Pfeils. While enjoying food and drinks, they would replay the game then watch the scores of the other games played that night. On away games, they would always stop at a restaurant. Not only would they follow football but also basketball, college games and air shows. They would also take weekend trips together.
I always looked forward to Wednesday morning sessions at McDonald’s when John would come in for biscuits and gravy and coffee. He would always say he needed to get to work, to make the popcorn, then stay another hour before leaving. John also enjoyed the Saturday morning pancake breakfasts at the Methodist Church. It seemed like we always sat at the same table when we went to alumni banquets, Christmas parties and football reunions.
At the dealerships, John was always willing to stop and talk while work was being done on any of my vehicles. More times than not, Mary Lee would call and remind him to stop at the store on his way home. John was very proud of Mary Lee, his children and his grandchildren.
John was an amazing man that I am going to miss but I feel blessed that I was able to know him. I am going to miss our talks and his stories, the history I learned from him and his jokes. I don’t know that I ever heard the same one twice.
God bless you and rest in peace, John Kile.