RHINELANDER - People in Rhinelander knew him by voice alone.|
But Todd McEldowney, the longtime voice of the Hodags, was much more than that to the community.
He died late last month.
"He was synonymous with Hodag sports. He was the voice of the Hodags," says Todd McEldowney, Todd's son.
The senior McEldowney became almost as much of an institution for Rhinelander athletics as the Hodag itself.
His 33 years behind the radio microphone and as a teacher at Rhinelander High School inspired, as well as entertained.
"People left him feeling better about themselves and better about the world they lived in, because he truly loved what he was doing," his son remembers.
Football to basketball, softball to snowmobile derbies, WOBT radio to a stint here at Channel 12, and the microphone to the classroom, the Rhinelander community knew and loved him.
"All in all, we had an excellent time together," says his longtime partner, Paul Ebert.
Ebert was with him in the booth for decades.
"I probably preferred basketball on the fact that it was indoors and warm," Ebert laughs.
"If I wasn't with him broadcasting, we were probably fishing for walleyes on the weekend," he says.
Many people thought he could go even bigger than the Northwoods.
"I would think he would have been network caliber," says Ebert.
"He decided that teaching was so important to him, and he loved being around the kids so much, that he was going to stay here in Rhinelander, support his Hodags, and teach for Rhinelander High School," says the junior McEldowney.
Stay, support, and teach - and be vital member of the Rhinelander community.
"He always thanked people that were listening. He mentioned specifically the shut-ins and the people that couldn't get to the games," says his son.
McEldowney signed off with his signature line for the last time in 1988.
"Win or lose, it's always a good idea to back your Hodags," he would say.
But that didn't end his love for Rhinelander.
"He was so proud and so loyal to the Hodags, and that's something he took with him until the day he died," his son says.
He died on May 26th, loving every minute of life.
"He always said in his closings that he hoped people enjoyed the broadcast as much as he enjoyed bringing it to them."
You can help remember McEldowney by aiding in building a new press box at Mike Webster Stadium, Rhinelander's football home.
Make donations out to McEldowney Memorial.
Send them to O'Melia, Schiek, and McEldowney, 4 South Stevens Street, Rhinelander, WI 54501.