Even though he has been out of the business for more than 10 years, Bob Russo still is, through and through, a radio man.
A 35-year veteran of the business, Russo, who was most recently Program Director at WRDR-FM 104.9 in Egg Harbor City before its 1999 format change, surrounds himself with music.
"In radio, if you have what we call dead air, you're in trouble, there's something going on," said the 75-year-old from the Cardiff section of Egg Harbor Township. "I always have music on in the background. It kind of makes it OK for me."
Russo's life is made up of stories. There's the big-time - lunching with Jack Lemmon, or taking a young Ron Howard and his entourage to a South Philly diner for lunch - and there's the small, like his returning to school in his sixties, or the musings of his 3-year-old granddaughter, Amanda. These stories, and others, have been immortalized in Russo's recently published memoir, "Waiting for the '32."
Russo had always wanted to write, he explained, but it
wasn't until recently that he mustered the drive to make this dream a reality. Two years ago, at the suggestion of his daughter, Donna Marie Albano, Russo started the blog from which he would derive the memoir.
As a vaguely ordered collection of short blog entries, Russo's book is not a straightforward, narrative autobiography, but a series of bite-sized vignettes.
"I blogged, and out of the blog I started getting ideas on how to structure it," Russo said. "It's still not linear. I just did it the way it felt comfortable to me, and then broke it down into different groups, lessons I've learned, things that were taught to me."
The book covers a variety of topics, from Russo's brushes with celebrity to his opinions on current events and political issues, but it's when he writes about his family that the book is at its most poignant. His letter to Amanda on what will be her 16th birthday in 2025, and his wistful recollections of childhood trips to visit his aunt, are highlights.
Albano, who has followed her father's work from blog to book, said that while she has heard most of his stories before, they take on a new dimension through being put on paper.
"Before penning it, he would certainly always share those stories, so they were familiar to me, but it's fun to read his perspective on things," Albano said. "Especially when he's reflective about the good old days or his school years or whatever the case may be. I thought it was wonderful."
Although he began this endeavor with few expectations, Russo said his work has developed a surprising following among his family, friends and colleagues.
That the book has finally come to fruition is as big a deal to some of Russo's fans as it is for the author himself. Joe Simone, a longtime friend and occasional writer himself, said he swelled with pride when Russo showed him the finished product.
"The fact that he actually did it and accomplished it, I can't say I'm really surprised," Simone said. "But I have to say, when we went to lunch recently and he pulled the book out, I actually got emotional."
Russo said his goal in writing the book was to leave a legacy his family can share and hold dear. While the encouragement he has gotten throughout the process has been overwhelming, he said, it's the idea that Amanda and his future grandchildren will know him through his words and stories that is the most gratifying part of his being a published author.
"I never got into this thinking about a million seller or a gold record," Russo said. "I'm really happy it got published. I'm really happy about what I wrote, and after that, it's gravy."
"Waiting for the '32" is available online at waitingforthe32.com and
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