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Longtime St. Thomas Radio Voice Goes Silent

Dec. 29, 2004 –– Bob Noble,V.I. broadcast industry pioneer, died Wednesday morning at the Roy L. Schneider Hospital after suffering a heart attack. He was 79.
News of his sudden death affected many in the communications community who had known or worked for Noble over the course of his more than 50 years in St. Thomas radio.
And many recalled Noble's musical proclivities, which go back many years, and are well documented in fond memories.
Dennis "Tex" Murphy, Noble's program manager at radio station WVWI for about 16 years, remembered Noble's generosity. "He took us all in as a family," Murphy said. "He came to our wedding, he was there when the kids were born."
Another radio legend, local broadcaster Lee Carle, said Wednesday, "Bob Noble had class, style. He was a nice, warm, wonderful gentleman."
Noble and his wife Wendy have lived on Water Island for the past few years, moving back to the island from Florida where they had moved after Hurricane Marilyn destroyed their Water Island home.
Noble moved from the states to St. Thomas in 1955 with his partner Bob Moss. They started radio station WBNB, (the B's for the Bobs), located at the V. I. Hotel, which was a booming concern in those days.
Carle remembers those days. "I worked for both of them then," Carle said. "My original studio was at the hotel. When they dissolved WBNB, Moss took the TV station, and Noble took the radio. He changed it to WVWI. We had quite a crew then –– Mary Brooks Jackson, Louise Noble, Stan Stolkowski,Nicky Russell, Jody Owen….
"And Bob was a musician, too." Carle said. "He used to play up at the Galleon House with Bruce Cobb and Marty Clark –– he played the French Horn."
Musician Nicky "Mighty Whitey" Russell worked for Noble for about 26 years. "He was a tremendous musician. He played the mellow phone, which is like a French Horn, but it has different keys. I remember one time for his birthday his first wife wanted to buy something special and she got him this silver cornet. You should have seen his face light up. He used to play it at all our office parties. And he would take it to Galleon House, too –– he loved to play in the clubs."
"He had a great love of music as well as radio. I worked for him for many years, and he was a good friend."
Murphy said he was intimidated by Noble when he first went to work for him. "Those big bushy eyebrows, and that deep voice –– but the first thing I noticed was his generosity. He gave me a Christmas bonus in 1979, after I'd only worked six days. We were able to spend some time with him over Christmas this year, and I'm happy about that."
Long-time friend Fred Watts, fellow member of the elite and elusive Garden Club for Men, said Wednesday, "It's a great loss for the community. He did significant work with Bob Moss at their combined operations, and subsequently at Radio One. He made Radio One a place you could always depend on for accurate news. A really neat group of people worked for him. During the time he was active at the station, I was his legal counsel."
Watts was thoughtful, "You have to think at a time like this about what are the qualities that has made someone different. You think, 'Am I on the right path?' That to me is the salutary thing, in addition to all the tears."
A voice from off-island, Willi Miller sent recollections from Florida of her tenure as Radio One program director when the station was located downtown in the Franklin Building.
"Bob epitomized the image of an old-time Virgin Islander to me. He could be a strict taskmaster, but he knew the importance of quality broadcasting and cared deeply about the community, a combination that served the islands well for many years. Whether he was dressed in a yacht club blazer or his well-worn boatyard Docksiders, Bob was a gentleman of the old school. I always felt that it was a privilege to be considered his friend. I will miss him."
Noble's Water Island neighbor and friend Colette Monroe, was very saddened, though she said she was happy she had recent memories to share. "We spent time on Christmas eve and Christmas day enjoying his good humor," she said.
Monroe recalled corralling Noble into being Water Island Civic Association president, "It wasn't easy," she said, "but I got to sit alongside of him as vice president in 2002 and 2003. He was funny. He said he would do it only if I was vice president. And, I got to hear the evolution of his 50-year radio and TV career in the V. I., and about the comradery of the older radio personalities and their friendly competition."
Noble sold the radio station to Randy Knight in 1996 after Hurricane Marilyn had destroyed the Franklin building offices. Knight said of Noble, "He was truly one of the pioneers of Virgin Island broadcasting, a decent gentleman who really cared about the V.I. And he contributed significantly."
He added, "To show you how nice he was, buying the station from him was the easiest negotiation I've ever had in my life. He will be sorely missed."
Noble is survived by his wife Wendy, and four grown children, Sarah, Wendy, Robby and Matt Noble. A complete obituary will be published when more information is obtained.
Funeral arrangements by Davis Funeral Home are pending.

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