By JESS MANCINI
The Parkersburg News and Sentinel
PARKERSBURG, W.Va. — A familiar face on Parkersburg television has signed off.
Roger Sheppard retired as the vice president and general manager of WTAP effective Friday, ending 27 consecutive years at the Parkersburg-based television station.
“It’ll be hard, but I’m excited,” Sheppard, a 1971 Parkersburg High School graduate, said.
Sheppard was named vice president and general manager of the TV station in April 2000, the first news director with Benedek Broadcasting to become a general manager. He will be succeeded by Ken Long, who was a sales manager at the station.
Sheppard’s news career spans 42 years. He sold ads and took photos for the Belpre Observer, worked on the copy desk of The Parkersburg News from 1977-79, worked for Durfee’s TV Cable, was a copy editor at The Charleston Daily Mail, worked for TV stations in Huntington and Pittsburgh, and then returned to Parkersburg in 1990, becoming an anchor, reporter and news director at WTAP.
In 1994, Sheppard became an account executive, knowing he could never be a general manager without sales experience.
“He’s literally done it all,” said Jim Wharton, WTAP sportscaster.
Wharton, himself a fixture in the local sports scene, is celebrating 40 years at the station.
“Roger has had a pretty good, successful career,” he said.
A going away party was held Wednesday at the Art Center.
Memories are aplenty, but several stand out, Sheppard said. Among those, the Shell Chemical explosion in 1994 and the collapse of the cooling towers in 1979 at Willow Island, when he worked on the copy desk at the newspaper, Sheppard said.
Several pages had to be set aside for the obituaries from the men killed at Willow Island, he said.
“That flood of obituaries just blew me away,” Sheppard said.
Another was when President Ronald Reagan was shot. He worked on the copy desk at the Daily Mail and rushed back to the office to remake the front page.
Afterward, he saw several carriers, young boys at a time when kids were carriers, reading the story about the president. It was a good feeling, he said.
“I saw the kids reading the front page I just redesigned,” Sheppard said.
On a table in his office, where his belongings were boxed and ready to move, is among his favorite mementos, a snapshot of Miss West Virginia Kim Parrish, who emceed a pageant at the Smoot Theatre, but who also was working for the TV station.
Parrish, dressed to the nines in an evening gown, is interviewing the winner and holding a microphone for her for a story for the TV station.
“That is my favorite picture,” Sheppard said.
As for retirement, Sheppard plans to travel with his wife, Anna, who served in the House of Delegates and retired from the Legislature with the end of her term in December. They have family around the country and his daughter, Scarlet, is an actress in Los Angeles.
“I don’t know what we’ll do six months or a year from now,” he said.
He is excited about spending more time with his wife and doesn’t plan to jump into any cause or project just yet. Sheppard, who loves music and played the drums in many local bands, may get back into music.
“Hey, I might come back to The Parkersburg News and shoot pictures,” Sheppard said.
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