KDKA anchor Ray Tannehill signed off the noon news for the last time yesterday, delivering a bouquet of thanks to his co-workers and the viewers who have watched him for nearly 30 years. And when he was finished, his control-room colleagues flashed a message of their own across the bottom of the screen: "Happy Retirement Ray! ... We'll Miss You!"
"After 45 years in this news business, I think it's time for this old gray horse to be put out to pasture," Tannehill joked in the final minutes of the broadcast. He had requested some time at the conclusion of the news to address the audience, and he did it with humor, warmth and dry eyes.
"It's been a wonderful career for me, because the business afforded me the opportunity to travel to places I never would have gone on my own -- garden spots, like Beirut and Russia, to name a few. And to interview hundreds of people, ranging from monarchs to U.S. presidents to the man and woman on the street."
Tannehill, a native of New Brighton in Beaver County, spent part of his early career working for TV and radio stations in San Francisco. He then anchored the news at Channel 11 for six years before being cut loose -- a turn that allowed KDKA to hire him in April 1976.
Since then, he has anchored all of KDKA's key broadcasts and reported on stories as close as Downtown and as distant as Israel and the former Soviet Union.
Although Tannehill did not mention any colleagues by name, he reeled off a long list of people who put the newscast together, from the assignment editors and directors to the floor managers and Tele-PrompTer operators.
"Thanks, also, to the great people who make up our staff of photojournalists. They, at times, put themselves in harm's way in order to bring you the pictures of the stories we cover. My heartfelt thanks to the greatest group of reporters I have ever been associated with. I am happy to have been a part of your careers."
Tannehill then paid tribute to the viewers, taking special note of the support he received when he encountered "a little bump in the road several years ago." That was a mild stroke, which prompted hundreds of cards, letters and prayers.
"Believe me, it's been a great ride for me. It's been my pleasure to have you along for a major part of it."
He quipped that if anyone sees him walking along the street, "I wouldn't mind if you bought me a cup of coffee because, after all, I'm going to be on a fixed income." And then it was time for a plug for "The Young & the Restless" and a handshake from colleague Jon Burnett, who had delivered the weather forecast and was seated to his right.
After the news, station employees streamed into the studio where Tannehill was given a set of Callaway golf clubs. Jennifer Ant-kowiak, Tannehill's noon co-anchor, stopped by with her infant son. She is on maternity leave until September. A two-minute retrospective of Tannehill's career, produced by Ken Rice, aired on the early evening news.
Today, Stacy Smith officially takes over Tannehill's noon spot.