Giddy Up: Memories of Gary Papa

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I remember the first day of my internship at Action News like it was yesterday. It was the summer of 1997, I was 21 years old, still in college and very nervous about meeting the people I had watched on television for most of my life.

I remember the first day of my internship at Action News like it was yesterday. It was the summer of 1997, I was 21 years old, still in college and very nervous about meeting the people I had watched on television for most of my life.

To my immense relief, everyone I met was gracious, warm and welcoming-and then there was Gary. To say that Gary was like a human tornado would be grossly understating his gargantuan presence. When Gary entered the building, you knew he had arrived, and the day we met was no different. One of the first things out of his mouth was “Who are you?” If you knew anything about Gary, you knew that he never asked a question if he didn’t want the answer. I was quite intimidated, but that feeling quickly faded and we became fast friends.

It wasn’t uncommon for Gary and I to have dinner together after the 6 o’clock newscast, and he always treated-no exceptions, and it didn’t matter how many of us were there. When he got the bug to do something, or go somewhere-he did it. Gary couldn’t believe I didn’t know how to drive stick shift, so he taught me-in the Action News parking lot!! Back when swing dancing was making a comeback, we hit the now-defunct Five Spot in Olde City one night, where Gary showed off his skills to the delight of just about everyone in the place. When he found out I could sing and play the guitar, Gary loudly demanded that I make him a cassette tape (yes, I said cassette tape) of a performance, which I watched him listen to while he smiled the whole time. From that point on, he would tease me by singing the first line of ‘Don’t Give Up on Us Baby’ in that inimitable overdramatic fashion so many of us came to know and love.

After I graduated college and landed my first job as a reporter, I would sometimes bring my reel to Gary, who always offered a fair and honest critique. He once said to me “You’re an anchor, Nick. Not a reporter, an anchor-I can see it.” He was right, and I did both for nearly a decade. I know he would have understood why I left the business, because Gary never did anything he didn’t feel passionate about-if he taught me anything in life, it was that.

Gary and I lost touch over the years, something I regret even more now in light of his struggle with cancer and untimely passing. I have not been surprised at the immense outpouring of grief displayed by the Philadelphia community, as it mirrors my own. Someone so vibrant and full of life wasn’t supposed to die, especially at such a young age. But Gary Papa lived enough for five people, and I was so fortunate to have been given the opportunity to know him like I did.

Gary used to end his voicemail recording with two words-“Giddy Up.” When I think of what Gary Papa was really about, I believe that truly says it all.

 

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2 COMMENTS

  1. Touching Account

    Thanks for giving a touching inside look at what most of us know as Gary the Sports guy from Ch. 6.  It is nice to hear such a personal account.  I’m pleased that he was such a good guy off camera as well.  Sweet article, Nicky Vallee!

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