Neil Rogers was the reason I wanted to get into radio -- and I have no trouble admitting that when I finally did, I ripped him off all to hell.
I grew up listening to Uncle Neil -- a South Florida institution throughout a good portion of my life -- and was never anything less than breathtakingly awed by his insight, his intellect, his humor, and most of all his fearlessness. The man was simply incapable of being cowed by such quaint notions as decorum or a respect for conformity or authority.
That's why it was such a blow to learn a few days ago that, in what were obviously the final days of his life, Neil was suffering from dementia. I immediately understood how devastating it would be for the vibrant and vital Neil the world knew -- the acerbic and quick-witted wise-ass that had become a legend in my hometown -- to have that which he prized so highly slip away from him. I knew that for him, the loss of his dignity and a firm control of that scalpel-sharp mind of his would be a fate far worse than death.
So maybe it's better that this morning Neil Rogers died at the age of 68.
Still, knowing that a voice so powerful is now gone renders me, ironically, speechless.
Goodbye, Uncle Neil -- and thank you.
The Miami Herald: Radio Icon Neil Rogers Dies/12.24.10