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Bob Cerminara
Well Dressed and
Well Respected

Robert A. Cerminara was born in Pittsburgh, April 4, 1942 to Angelo and Stella, both now deceased. He is the younger of their two sons. His brother Donald, who is ten years his senior, is married and still living in Pittsburgh.

Bob is a proud uncle three times and a great uncle five times! Although he's never been married ("Who would put up with me?") he has been with his very significant other, Mary Pat Hely for over 15 years.

He retired as an investigative reporter from Channel 8 News on his 62nd birthday. This is a look at how he got to where he is today.

Bob Cerminara at his retirement

Bob Cerminara at his retirement party

Bob was in the Air Force for 3 years. His original home base in December 1960 was in Japan. He served in Vietnam from January 1, 1963 through July 1, 1963. "This was a time that Americans were there as advisors."

He remembers taxiing down runways where they barely got out because of mortar fire. He was with the 1st Mobil Communications Group, the company that set up all communications throughout Vietnam and anywhere else they were needed.

His orders had been very top secret - never specifying what country they were going to, just an APO number. Bob never really knew what country he was in until he landed. He was stationed at five different bases including Dang and Tan Son Nhut.

Bob Cerminara earlier in his career

Bob Cerminara earlier in his career

When Bob got out of the service he considered returning to a field he had been in for eighteen years - professional dancing! Yes, since the age of three Bob danced ballet, tap, modern, jazz, folk - all types of dance, and he did it professionally for three years.

He danced in three Operas and for the Pittsburgh Playhouse and auditioned and was accepted on the Ed Sullivan show. Regrettably, one of the girls in his dance company became pregnant and couldn't dance - which meant their participation was canceled.

He went to Florida with a friend who was trying out for the June Taylor Dancers. June Taylor was appearing regularly on the Jackie Gleason show at the time. The friend had signed Bob up as well, without Bob knowing it. Once he got there he gave in and did the audition.

The next day he got the call - the job was his if he wanted it. Bob realized that the professional life of a dancer was only about ten years at the most, and he needed something more than that for the long term, so he turned the job down.

Bob Cerminara in 1996

Bob Cerminara at work in 1996

He started his broadcasting career in 1964 as an apprentice working without pay just for the opportunity to learn the business. He started out thinking it would be pretty cool to be a disc jockey, but soon came to realize there was little value in knowing the number one song and that people didn't care about that song after it became number two. It just wasn't that important.

He started concentrating on the news - both how to cover it and how to write it. In doing so he found the passion that became so evident in his work.

At the same time he was attending Duquesne University where he was a Journalism major. The owner of radio station WEDO called his station looking for on-air talent. They mentioned Bob's name along with a few others.

They all went for the audition but it was Bob that got the job - on the spot. Within a week he was working in McKeesport on a 1000-watt daytime radio show. (Daytime radio refers to stations that broadcast from sun up to sun down).

It turned out to be a one-man news operation, which made Bob the news director. It was a CBS affiliate, so there were 10 minutes of CBS news on the hour and 5 minutes of local news. "I was just awful on the air - really awful!"

The station was not overly concerned about how well he did. The advice he was given was "As long as you pronounce the name with authority only the relatives will know if you don't pronounce it correctly."

A year and a half later Bob was fired by the same man who hired him. The rumor at the time was that it was because Bob drove a bigger car. Whatever the reason, Bob handled it well. He was told then, and has since learned that it's true, that if "you haven't been fired in this business you must be doing something wrong!"

Bob Cerminara in less than typical casual clothes

Bob Cerminara in less than typical casual clothes

An NBC affiliate, WJAS, was within walking distance of his home. Alan DePetro was the news director and Ted Watts was the morning DJ. Bob became the morning street reporter who went to the site of breaking news stories. He would then talk with Ted Lux on the air.

This worked well until the station format was changed to talk radio. He was asked to do a talk show, which he wasn't sure he could do. Once again he sought advice. The station people told him "It's easy. If somebody calls in in favor of something, you're against it. If they're against it you're for it. The bottom line is you must be controversial."

After only 6 months Bob knew this was not for him. "I just couldn't take the opposite side just to be controversial. It wasn't me."

He called his friend Ted Lux, who by now had come to Cleveland to work for WKYC. Although Lux told him there were no jobs at WKYC he referred him to Charlie Day at WGAR where there were a few openings. This was the summer of 1969. Charlie Day invited him to Cleveland for three interviews and hired him.

Bob, who never did graduate from Duquesne, was now the studio man doing news in addition to doing spot news such as City Hall, County stories and the courts. He worked six days a week. He was a non-union employee who wanted very much to join the union, have its protection, make more money and work a five day week.

Bob worked there for seven years and in doing so made a good friend of Art Caruso, the general sales manager. After seven years he was fired as an on-air personality, but Art kept him in the sales department as a trainee. He recognized that Bob was capable and had lot of street smarts that would be helpful in the sales department. Eight months or so into that Bob knew sales weren't for him.

Bob told his parents in Pittsburgh how unhappy he was. They owned a deli/restaurant/bar for twenty years in Pittsburgh and they told Bob they wanted to retire and travel. They asked him to come home and take care of the business. So he went home to become the new owner of the restaurant.

Although it was easy to transfer the business into his name, the liquor license was not as easy. Pennsylvania liquor control agents told him it would take eight months to transfer the license and, of course, until then he could not sell alcohol. The agent, however, offered to "rush things through" for him for a special price.

Bob refused to pay and told him "if I was still doing news in Cleveland, I'd be writing a story about your corruption."

His high standards and ethics paid off. The assistant news director of Channel 8, Ron Belick, called and asked him to come back to Cleveland and work as the assignment editor. He packed his bags and came back to Cleveland.

Bob Cerminara's Channel 8 credentials

Bob Cerminara's Channel 8 credentials

He stayed with Channel 8 for the next 28 years, from 1976 until his retirement April 2, 2004.

Bob's Channel 8 credentials

Bob takes pride in his work, and rightly so. He has earned a reputation as being fair, accurate and honest. He was taught by his parents to respect people and have compassion. He is concerned about some of the younger people in the business today who seem enamored with themselves because they are on television.

"These are the people that will ask a parent "how it feels" to loose a child. That's just wrong. You can ask the same question with compassion and feeling. You get the story and the people are not further traumatized."

"I never really thought about face time - how much time I would actually be on air. What mattered to me was the story. Did I cover it completely, honestly, compassionately? That's what mattered to me."

You can't write a story about Bob Cerminara without including the now famous Mike White Halloween costume incident. Mike White was first elected to Cleveland City Council and then went on to the State Legislature. As a councilman he had a reputation as being ruthless. By 1989 he decided to run for mayor.

Virgil Dominic had Bob covering the campaign, specifically George Forbes, who was White's opponent. Someone else had been assigned to cover Mike White.

Carl Monday, the stations investigative reporter broke the story that Mike White had a history of accusations alleging spousal abuse. He had been married three times - the first two Monday had documentation of accusations of abuse.

Bob Cerminara at 1996 Democratic National convention

Bob Cerminara at 1996 Democratic National convention

It was October 1989 - one month before the election. One of the photographers at the station was married to Kim Bracken, a Channel 3 weekend anchor. The couple planned a Halloween party at their home in Lakewood.

Three women who worked with Cerminara asked him to go as a Farmer and they would go as The Farmers Daughters. He refused, but agreed to go if they came up with a better idea.

They did. They asked him to go as Mike White and they would go as three battered wives. "I only thought about it for a second before I said yes".

Even though it was a private party, not a public event, Cerminara went to Phyllis Quail, the news director and got her permission. Carl Monday was planning on going as George Forbes. "Part of what sold me was the easy costume. I could wear a three piece suit, horn rimmed glasses and dark make-up, so that was no problem."

That Saturday night Bob walked in the door first, and people weren't sure who he was supposed to be. But when the three women with black eyes, slings and neck braces joined him there was no longer any question. It was the hit of the party, and of course tons of photos were taken.

By Monday morning Mary, Mary had the story in the Plain Dealer. "It was the longest story ever done on one person - I took up the whole column." She did the story again the next day. Newspapers in Painesville, Akron, Lorain and all the way to Bob's home in Pittsburgh covered the story. Bob granted interviews to anyone who asked.

Virgil Dominic explained to Bob that the station was getting a lot of heat and he had to remove Bob from the last week of the campaign. It was Virgil Dominic that first made Cerminara a street reporter, and Bob respected him greatly. "He was a very big influence on me; he let me do my job and had faith that it would be right."

The day after the article in the Painesville Telegram ran the author called Bob back and said that Phyllis Quail told him she had given Bob permission. The reporter asked why Cerminara did not tell him that. Bob replied simply "You didn't ask." He promised to write another story about Bob one day soon.

When the election came in November, Mike White won and became the new Mayor of Cleveland. Cerminara was never recognized for questions at press conferences until every other reporter was done, and then White would look at him quizzically and ask, "Who are you with?"

For the next 3 years White never spoke to him, with the exception of sometime near Halloween each October. For the twelve years White spent in office every October he would say "Cerminara, who are you dressing up as this year." And nothing else.

Bob Cerminara in less than typical casual clothes

Bob's reputation on the air was that of a polite, conservative, dignified reporter. All true enough off the air as well, but you must then add in that he loves to make jokes, and has a very creative, colorful vocabulary.

He has impeccable taste in clothing and puts a lot of effort into wearing exactly the right clothes. "No doubt about it, I am a clothes horse."

Bob Cerminara at party in gag gift jacket

Bob Cerminara at party in gag gift jacket

At the end of every year Bob goes through his closet and donates a lot of his clothes to The Christ Child Society and other charities.

His love of clothes is one of the reasons he's thinking about spending his winters in the southwest, although home will always be Cleveland. "Winter in Cleveland means my clothes get wet and dirty and my car gets wet and dirty. Those are two things that really matter to me."

Bob Cerminara and his little red Corvette

Bob Cerminara and his little red Corvette

He actually has two cars, a Lexus SC470 and a red Corvette. He also has a 1988 Harley with approximately 1000 miles on it! It is a special anniversary model - a valuable collector's item.

Bob Cerminara and his Harley

Bob Cerminara and his Harley

On his lapel is a Guardian Angel pin - a gift from Mary Pat nearly fifteen years ago. "I wore it everyday at work on my left lapel.

On the right lapel I wore a flag with an eagle on it. I wear it partially because it was a gift from Mary Pat, but also because I am a Catholic and Guardian Angels mean a lot. Good things have happened to me since I've been wearing it."

Although Bob will miss the people, he will not miss the time commitments and the schedule. "In retirement I can do what I want, when I want, with whomever I want. Maybe one day I'll just play with the dogs (four miniature Schnauzers) all day or wash the car. Now I can do that."

Bob Cerminara

Bob Cerminara

Many people have inspired Bob Cerminara, not the least of which were his parents. In addition to Virgil Dominic, he was also greatly inspired by Paul Sciria. Bob also inspired a lot of people himself and the more you know about him the more of an inspiration he becomes.

For example, few people know that Bob is dyslexic; something he himself didn't know until he was in Cleveland for a few years. In grade school and high school they put him in the slow learner classes. "At that time who knew anything about Dyslexia?"

He was doing a story one day at a local hospital. The story was on Dyslexia. After the interview the Doctor asked him how long he had been dyslexic and that's how he found out he was.

Few people know also that Bob stuttered as a child. He taught himself to slow down and think about what he was saying. Now he rarely stutters, only if he is extremely anxious or excited. Even then he can make it stop with concentration.

Most people would not expect a dyslexic child with a stutter to have such a fabulous broadcasting career - but it was what he wanted and what he ultimately earned. He also earned the respect of people in all walks of life, as is evidence by his retirement party.

Toasts at Bob Cerminara's  party

Toasts at Bob Cerminara's party

Every major broadcasting person came to his party. Senator Voinovich, Dennis Kucinich and Kelly O'Donnell all flew in. Bob Beck, Jane Campbell, Jimmy DiMora and most every city council member where there, along with many others. See pictures from the party.

In one night, his city and his industry tried to show Bob Cerminara just how much they respected him. It is respect that is well deserved; well earned.

Cleveland Mayor Jane Campbell and Bob Cerminara

Cleveland Mayor Jane Campbell and Bob Cerminara

Bob has a reputation of being the "Best Dressed Reporter in Cleveland." Those people, and hundreds of others who could not be there, showed him that he has also deserved the title "Most Respected Reporter in Cleveland", both for his on and off air accomplishments.

From the dyslexic, stuttering child in Pittsburgh, to Vietnam, to Cleveland's airways he is a man who has come far and left his proud mark wherever he went.

He may be right about the Guardian Angel bringing good things to him - and he has shared the good with all he meets.

Profiled by Debbie Hanson

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