‘Holiday Wishes 2′: Dennis Staples’ family donates ‘Grinch’ readingWritten by Sarah Ottney | Managing Editor | email@example.com
Five years after his death from kidney disease at age 60, memories of longtime Toledo morning radio personality Dennis Staples still make his wife and daughter laugh.
“He would always narrate what he was doing,” his wife, Johanna Staples, recalled. “He would go into the bathroom and say into the mirror, ‘He combs his hair on the right and now he combs it on the left.’”
“‘Dennis Staples executes a nearly flawless hand-over-hand left hand turn,’” his daughter, Lexi Staples, added, laughing. “He just did it to amuse himself.”
“It was like color commentary for his life, like you’d hear at a ball game,” Johanna said. “We knew not to laugh at him because if you laughed at him he would do it more.”
Staples and his on-air partner Bob Kelly hosted “The Kelly and Staples Show” in Toledo for 19 years. They also appeared in many local TV commercials.
The Christmas season is difficult for the Staples family. Dennis died Dec. 17, 2007. His funeral was days before Christmas and his birthday was also in December.
“He was very quick-witted and ridiculously smart,” Lexi said of her father, who retired from radio in 2006 due to his deteriorating health. “He was my personal Google before Google was a thing. I would call my dad about any question that came up. He just knew everything about everything. He’s the smartest person I’ve ever known.”
The family contributed a track of Dennis reading Dr. Seuss’ “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” to the “Holiday Wishes 2” CD for Make-A-Wish.
Johanna, a special education teacher, discovered the recording by accident several years ago after using an old cassette tape of promotional holiday songs and readings for background music in one of her classes. Toward the end of the recording, she was shocked to hear her late husband’s voice.
The track was donated to the 2011 CD, but rights issues were complicated.
“We had to procure permission from Warner Bros., Random House and the Dr. Seuss estate,” said Toledo Free Press Editor in Chief Michael S. Miller, who produced the CD. “All three companies eventually agreed, so it is exciting to finally get this track to the public. But it started with the generosity of the Staples family.”
Several of Johanna’s former students have had wishes granted by Make-A-Wish, so she has a soft spot in her heart for the organization.
“At the beginning of my career, I worked with students who were terminally ill. To be able to survive the sadness of it, it’s really hard,” Johanna said. “As a home instructor, I would go to homes or hospitals to work with them and try to help, at least a little bit, keep their lives as normal as possible. And because they knew it didn’t scare me to be with an ill child, I was given quite a few over the years.”
Johanna said Dennis’s health issues were devastating, but also a blessing for the way they helped deepen their relationship.
“His illness was a gift that made us closer and more connected than most married couples get,” Johanna said. “You always wait till tomorrow to say that important thing you need to say to the other person. In my case, we said it every day because we didn’t know if tomorrow was going to be there. He would think every day about how important the people in his life were and he knew it was important to say it, so those words you forget to say or don’t take the time to say, those words got said. I’m not saying my marriage was perfect, but it was genuine. It was real. We were married almost 32 years. A lot of couples don’t have that gift. I miss my best friend. I miss my heart.”
Those who remember “The Kelly and Staples Show” will definitely recognize Dennis’ voice on “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” Lexi said.
“It’s not how he talked at home. His radio voice and his home voice, while they sounded similar, weren’t the same thing,” Lexi said. “He peppers a lot of personality into his voice. It’s fun to listen to.”