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Valley Lives - Charles "Chuck" Azzarello

The following article first appeared in "The Low Down to Hull and Back News" in the September 02, 2009 issue. Reprinted with permission.

Chez FM's 'Chuck' always made fun part of job

by Trevor Greenway

Kathy Donovan owes her career to Charles "Chuck" Azzarello. The television show host from Chelsea got her start at CHEZ 106 FM when the station opened up in 1977 and it all started with a job interview with Azzarello.

"Before he hired anybody, he did their (astrology) chart to make sure that everybody was going to fit together."

Donovan was a perfect fit. She began working on programming, writing, doing secretary work and everything in between, literally everything, on Azzarello's instruction.

"He told me to try to know as much about every job in the building, that way you will understand and respect other people's work," said Donovan.

"So I answered phones and wrote commercials."

Chuck was one of the founders of the station, coming from Toronto's CHUM-FM to shake up Ottawa's airwaves in 1977. He had good take on musical programming, a strong head for business and a desire to have fun and it showed at CHEZ FM.

"It was the most fun I ever had and got paid for it," said Donovan.

Valley Lives
Charles 'Chuck' Azzarello was one was one of Chez FM's founders. He died on Aug. 22. Photo courtesy Debbie Fleming.

I was there for 11 years and I don't think I worked one day."

Among the daily grind of filling the airwaves with progressive rock music, there was also the parties that Azzarello threw for his staff members. Halloween, Christmas and even celebratory rating parties were thrown so that Azzarello could properly thank his workers for a job well done.

Azzarello eventually made Donovan co-producer of the daily show "In the City," which focused on interviewing underground artists and musicians. After leaving the station in 1998, Donovan went on to be a weather and entertainment reporter for Ottawa's CJOH news. She then went on to become a co-host of CTV's Regional Contact in that same year, where her career resides today:

Donovan remained good friends with Azzarello after she flew away from the CHEZ FM nest he had created, sharing lobster dinners with him and his wife Debbie Fleming and eating his famous Caesar salad that Donovan said was "his greatest gift to his friends." She remained in contact with him all the way up to his death on Aug. 22. He was 60 years old when he succumbed to cancer.

She describes her mentor and friend as "loyal" and "caring" and added that having a family completed his life.

Azzarello was tossed into fatherhood, as his new wife, Debbie had two children. All of a sudden, Azzarello had an eight year-old boy, Ryan Brown and a three-year-old girl, Victoria Brown, but according to Ryan, the choice to sink or swim was non-existent in Chuck's mind.

"He was kind of thrown into the fire and he did very well," said Ryan. "He jumped right into the father-son bonding thing."

The bonding that Ryan refers to is father-son fishing trips, camping trips and of course, attending Ottawa Senators hockey games which Ryan remembers most.

"It was the first time I had ever had season tickets," said Ryan.

"It was a super privilege."

Ryan said he also learned how to be a loving husband from his step dad, as he never once witnessed a heated argument between his mother and Azzarello.

After selling CHEZ FM to Rogers in 1999, Azzarello became a chilled-out Wakefielder. He could be seen sitting on his dock on the Gatineau River or floating in his Kayak. He also became president of the BBR Lake association, which included Lac Breme, Lac Bob and Lac Ruthledge.

While on the executive of the association, Azzarello initiated the no gas motor bylaw on Lac Breme; with Lac Bob following suit shortly after.

"When he takes on a job, he does it right and he gets it done," said JP Laframboise, a former co-member of the association.

"He was a real people person."

Services were held at the McGarry funeral home in Wakefield Aug. 26.


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