Hundreds mourn WQYK's Dave McKay at Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg
Hundreds of friends, listeners and radio colleagues gathered Thursday at the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg for a "celebration of life" for WQYK-FM 99.5 DJ Dave McKay, who died one week earlier at his apartment just a few blocks away.
Among the mourners who shared stories of McKay's humor and generosity: His morning co-stars on WQYK, co-host Veronica Young and music director Kevin Ebel, who both started as interns under McKay (real name: Steve Ehmke) before joining him on the Dave and Veronica Morning Show.
"He truly taught me how to really love someone so hard and so unconditionally," Young said. "He was the guy who taught me not to be afraid to walk up to a crowd of strangers and just introduce myself and start talking. That's a hard thing to do, and he was the one who taught me to stop being scared to do that."
The wide cross-section of guests and speakers reflected McKay's standing not just among listeners and colleagues, but in the community.
Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn presented McKay's mother, Marianna Ehmke, with an official declaration of mourning and support from his city, and told stories of McKay bugging him for an interview while he was in a meeting with President Obama. Former St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster said McKay was such a persistent personality, he once insisted on a post-Election Day phone interview while Foster was still in the bathroom.
"When Dave gets to interview our heavenly father, the creator of the heavens and the earth, I'm hoping that he has a little more restraint," Foster said. "But somehow I don't think he will."
Other on-air personalities -- including Wild 94.1's Orlando Davis, 92.5 Maxima's Nio Encendio and Q105's Mason Dixon -- painted a portrait of a larger-than-life persona who was insistent, stubborn and always on the hunt for great radio; but also loving, loyal, generous and always eager to work a room.
"I don't think there's probably a person here that if Dave was with us, he could mingle the crowd and not remember your name, not remember where he met you, when he met you, not remember how many children you have, and maybe some things you wish to God he didn't remember," said longtime on-air partner Randy Price.
Before the memorial, audio clips of some of McKay's best on-air moments and interviews played over the P.A., as did messages of condolence from country stars John Rich and Randy Houser. The evening ended with McKay's friend Steve Greenstein of Jim's Harley-Davidson giving McKay's Harley a few final revs on the Mahaffey stage.
Said the memorial's emcee, Tampa Bay radio veteran Mike Culotta: "No more fitting way to end the day."
-- Jay Cridlin