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Remebering Jack Popejoy, dead at 63

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Longtime radio news reporter and anchor Jack Popejoy died of cancer over the weekend. He was 63.

For the last two years, Popejoy, of Sherman Oaks, co-anchored the morning news on KNX, and before that, he worked at sister station KFWB for the past two decades.

KPCC’s Susanne Whatley worked with Popejoy at KFWB for seven years and recalls his intelligence and deep sense of knowledge in a variety of subjects when speaking on air.

“We were on the air, a female co-anchor and I, when the Colombia shuttle disintegrated … and heard that Jack Popejoy was going to come in,” Whatley said. “And I thought, ‘gee’ what do they think, the women can’t handle this?”

Though, that was not the case because shortly after Whatley found out about Popejoy’s knowledge of the space program.

“Sure enough, he [Popejoy] walked in the door, he sat down … and proceeded to talk of the top of his head about … the impact of this tragedy,” Whatley said. “I was just staggered by the depth and breath of his knowledge on that subject as well as … astronomy … earthquakes.”

Whatley also remembered Popejoy’s knowledge on earthquakes since he is quite famous in Los Angeles for his participation in programs to help citizens be aware about earthquake danger; he knew about climatology, local politics, being an expert on different types of subjects, as well.

“I never seize to be amazed at the man’s intelligence,” Whatley said. “And his ability to tab into a deep base of knowledge when it came to talking on the radio intelligently about a variety of subject.”

He worked at KFWB from 1986-2009, where he served as the morning news anchor since 2000. Popejoy also created KFWB's first website and remained the webmaster for a decade. He continued to work on-air until late January.

By then Popejoy had an accomplished career, Whatley added.

“He used to like to talk to me about being the youngest program director in Los Angeles, which was at KIIS,” Whatley said. “Although, he called himself the program destructor.”

Whatley met Popejoy after college when he worked as a TV reporter.

“There were so many times when he told me who to talk to, what the story was,” Whatley said. “He was so incredibly helpful. I owe Jack a lot.”

The Los Angeles Fire Department issued a statement lauding Popejoy for his work with first responders.

"Jack Popejoy was involved in emergency planning and management, contributing his significant expertise to the city of Los Angeles Emergency Operations Organization for more years than any other person, and remained an adviser to the county of Los Angeles Office of Emergency Management and ardent supporter of the American Red Cross," fire officials said in the statement.

Born in Austin in 1947, Popejoy spent his early years in the Delaware Valley, living in New Jersey, Delaware and Pennsylvania.

He came to Southern California in the early 70s and wrote jingles for commercials. In 1972 he was hired as a weekend DJ, then weekday announcer for KIIS, eventually becoming the program director.

In 1976, he became a newscaster at KPOL AM and FM. A year later, as the program director, he changed KPOL-FM's call letters to KZLA.

In 1983, Popejoy joined KCOP, Channel 13, as a reporter and fill-in anchor, after having spent a few years as a news director and anchor in San Francisco television.

A multiple-award winner for broadcast excellence, locally Popejoy was recognized in 1998 as Journalist of the Year by the Society of Professional Journalists. He won 27 Golden Mikes from the Radio Television News Association of Southern California, including a best newscast award just last month for Best News Broadcast. He won eight Press Club Awards.

For the past several months, Popejoy was co-host of KNX Tech News on Saturday afternoons. He created KFWB's original website and served as its webmaster for a decade.

Popejoy mentored the fire department's media relations staff, and city fire named him an honorary chief in 1989.

"Jack's inquiring mind led him to be an indisputable expert on fires, floods and especially earthquakes, not to mention space exploration and astronomy," the fire officials said in their statement.

"To this day, many are surprised to hear that the humble Mr. Popejoy was a regional semi-finalist in NASA's Journalist-in-Space competition, which was canceled in the wake of the Challenger disaster.

"As one of the creators of the annual Great California ShakeOut, with 8 million participants, and a valued crisis communications trainer to countless public officials, Jack leaves a legacy of excellence, as well as an emotional hole in our hearts."

Funeral arrangements are pending.