Your emotions can sneak up on you.
And so, they did on this Friday morning before the sun was up, and Jeff Goldberg was preparing for what would be his final radio cast of “Good Morning, Fayetteville” at the Cumulus Broadcast Center that is home to WFNC 640, where Goldberg has been behind the microphone for 18 of his 45-year career in a business that has been his life.
They call him “Goldy.”
He would wipe a tear from first one eye, then the other.
And now, it was time.
“Alright, one last time,” the 65-year-old Goldberg would lean toward the microphone in the cubicle-like studio. “Welcome to my last ‘Good Morning, Fayetteville.’ Good morning, Fayetteville! Let’s do it! This is it. It’s closing time.”
His radio voice was robust.
His effervescent personality was there.
You don’t just walk away from a career of being everything you ever wanted to be, and just eight minutes into this radio morning of farewell, a rush of tears would flow.
“I knew it was going to be tough,” Goldberg almost apologetically would tell his radio listeners. “But I didn’t know the tears would start coming.”
Not this soon, or so he thought, into this radio cast.
After all, Goldberg is the consummate professional in this radio broadcasting business, and there was the weather temperature to report, traffic updates to remind us of and the local news, and morning guests heading the studio’s way. And not to forget the many well-wishers from all walks of life who would be coming this day just to let Jeff Goldberg know what he has meant to this community.
‘We’re going to miss him’
“He put locality back in radio,” Marty Webb, 75, and a retired local radio voice, would say. “A lot of it is nationally syndicated now. He’s kept local in radio. Fayetteville is going to miss Goldy in the morning.”
Robert Van Geons came early with his daughters, who are “Goldy” fans.
“The importance of an active local media can’t be understated,” says Van Geons, who is president and CEO of the Fayetteville Cumberland County Economic Development Corp. “I’m personally grateful for Goldy, who would always give the opportunity to talk about the EDC. We’re going to miss him.”
Lindsay Whitley, associate superintendent for Cumberland County Schools, stopped by on behalf of Dr. Marvin Connelly Jr., the public schools superintendent, and the county board of education.
“You have invited us to share our news,” Whitley would tell Goldberg, in the good times and the not-so-good times. “We want to say thank you.”
Former N.C. Sen. Kirk deViere was there.
“I just wanted to see his last day,” deViere would say.
Cumberland County Commissioner Glenn Adams came; former county commissioner Charles Evans; Fayetteville City Councilwoman Kathy Keefe Jensen; Johnny Wilson with Fayetteville Urban Ministry; Greg West of the county school board; Jan Johnson and Pat Wright of GroundSwell Pictures and the annual Indigo Moon Film Festival downtown; Maj. Todd Joyce and Capt. Shawn Strepay with the Fayetteville Police Department; Cumberland County District Attorney Billy West; and George Breece, the longtime politico who spent so much time with Goldberg analyzing local and state politics.
‘If you love what you do’
Jeff Goldberg grew up in New York City, where his father, Bob Goldberg, was the business accountant for Ed Sullivan, the New York newspaperman who would become host of the “Ed Sullivan Show” that would introduce us to Elvis and The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.
“We went to afternoon dress rehearsal every Sunday that there was a show from 1965-1971,” Jeff Goldberg says.
But radio, he says, became his passion from age 6.
“Growing up listening to the greatest radio station in America in the ‘60s and ‘70s, WABC in New York City, I knew from a very young age that I wanted to be on the radio,” Goldberg says. “I idolized the DJs on that station.”
As a kid, a hairbrush or a spoon became his make-believe microphone.
He gave thought to attending Syracuse University or the University of Maryland. But a visit with his parents to American University and its new communications department, and Goldberg was hooked.
“Mom and Dad, this is where I want to be,” he would tell listeners on Friday about working his first job with WAMU, the school radio station.
Goldberg would spend 27 years working in radio in Washington, D.C., before coming to Fayetteville in 2005 “to put a new radio station on the air called Oldies 106.9 WFVL.”
He says the station lasted five years until changing the format to what is now Magic 106.9, and Goldberg would spend much of his time selling radio advertising and doing voiceover and commercial work for Cumulus.
“So, my voice was never off the radio,” he says. “In the spring of 2012, management came to Jim Cooke and I and asked us if we would like to team up to do a local morning radio show on WFNC.”
Good Morning Fayetteville would debut on Labor Day of 2012. Cooke retired in 2016. He died in April of 2021.
“After being a disc jockey and doing a music show for 27 years, it was quite the learning curve transitioning to news-talk,” Goldberg says. “I'm not sure I could have named one city council member 12 years ago. Now, over a decade later, I have enjoyed spotlighting all the wonderful things about Fayetteville — musicians, theaters, nonprofits, local sports, movers and shakers and, of course, getting important information out to the listeners about local and state politics and the everyday minutiae that affects them.”
The name "Goldy" would become synonymous in the community, much like Danny Highsmith, Jeff Thompson, Wendy Riddle, Jerry England, the late Ted Ours, the late Johnny Joyce, the late Bill Belche and the late Bill Bowser.
Jeff Goldberg was engaging.
His charisma was brighter than a morning sunrise.
He was a radio personality and a community voice.
“Of course, the mission every morning is to always be entertaining,” Goldberg says. “It’s a lot harder than it sounds and requires a heck of a lot of prep and work, but they say if you love what you do, you'll never work a day in your life, and that has been so true for me.”
He was more than entertaining.
He was informative.
“I spent many long days on the air after hurricanes Matthew and Florence,” Goldberg says. “When the Covid-19 health pandemic hit in 2020, GMF was there every morning with medical info from doctors, health directors, psychologists and other experts.”
Dr. Jennifer Green, the Cumberland County public health director, was doing remotes with Goldberg on almost a daily basis.
Good Morning Fayetteville’s voice was not lost on Mike Nagowski, chief executive officer for the Cape Fear Valley Health System.
“Goldy’s steadfast commitment to keeping our community informed during the pandemic was truly exceptional,” Nagowski says. “In a time of uncertainty, his show informed our community and provided clarity and assurance when we needed it most. His dedication to delivering accurate and timely information was not just admirable, it was crucial. We owe him a debt of gratitude for being a steady source of reassurance and knowledge during challenging times.”
And there was May 30, 2020, when provocateurs and protesters converged on the downtown Market House and Cross Creek Mall in wake of the death of George Floyd by a white police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
“The night of the protest, we were home watching the split screen of Fayetteville and Raleigh on TV,” Goldberg says. “Downtown Raleigh looked like a war zone after cops moved in, while downtown Fayetteville escaped all that damage and loss because the cops stayed back. To this day, I believe that was the right call, and when I got to the Market House at 7 the next morning, aside from a few boarded-up windows, you never would have known anything had happened down there just 10 hours earlier. Mike Gibson and his parks and rec crew had everything cleaned up already.
“I did not understand, however, why the Fayetteville police sat back and allowed looters to ransack the mall and Skibo Road Walmart.
“We had very tough questions for Chief (Gina) Hawkins,” Goldberg says. “That night ignited weeks-long questions on the show about race relations, the police response and what to do with the Market House.”
Goldberg was there, too, to help with fundraisers for whatever the cause.
“The annual 12-hour radiothons we did for the Karen Chandler Trust, helping cancer patients and their families here in Fayetteville, raised tens of thousands of dollars,” he says. “And I can't count how many dogs we’ve gotten adopted, thanks to our Thursday pet segment with the Fayetteville Animal Protection Society.”
‘An amazing journey’
Time for this final radio cast was slipping away.
Goldberg would remind his listeners that the recent GivingTuesday campaign of the Cumberland Community Foundation raised $2.4 million.
“Don’t tell me this community is not charitable,” he would say. “And I don’t know if that includes the matching funds.”
He would look through the glass toward Kenny McLean, his production engineer.
“It’s just been great working with you,” Goldberg would say, his breaking voice escaping him.
And you, McLean would say back.
He would thank longtime friend, David Weakly, once a production technician with the late Tim Russert of NBC’s “Meet The Press.” Weakly was there Murrells Inlet, S.C., just to be with his old friend on this farewell.
Goldberg would look toward his wife, Susan, and break again.
“Thank you, honey,” he would say and offer a long embrace, with both in tears. “I love you.”
She would call Friday’s radio cast bittersweet.
“It marks the end of an amazing journey,” she would say. “I am incredibly grateful we are here and able to celebrate this together. I am in awe of his energy and dedication always — even to this last day. I think his dedication to keeping his show about Fayetteville, and the surrounding communities that stands out for me. I remember a few 4 a.m. drives that stand out in my memory — during a hurricane and one during an ice storm to make sure he had local news on the air. While, of course, this is bittersweet, it is the ending of a great ride.”
Jeff Goldberg would save you, his loyal radio listeners, for last.
“For the last time,” Goldberg would sign off as the clock struck 9 a.m. for one more morning on the radio cast, “this is Goldy, saying thank you.”
Bill Kirby Jr. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 910-624-1961.