Bill Gonillo: A Salt of the Earth, Quality Guy
When Gene Gumbs, our assistant athletics director for athletics communications, called me Sunday night to tell me about Bill Gonillo's passing, I was stunned. He had just gotten off the phone with Dave Babbin, Bill's former colleague and dear friend at Channel 12. I remain stunned 48 hours later. When I got up Monday morning, I was trying to convince myself I had had a bad dream, but in fact I knew better because I hadn't slept a wink all night. All I could think about was Bill Gonillo and all the good he did in such a short time on Earth.
Bill's engaging personality separated him from the rest of us mortals. His humility, humor and warmth left no space or time in his life to be critical or judgmental. He saw only the good, which is not to suggest he was the least bit naïve about the negative. He just never allowed himself to be preoccupied by it. It would only clutter his brain with an unnecessary distraction.
As many of us know he could always be seen in his trademark sweatshirt with camera in tow on his shoulder. He would always arrive at the Sacred Heart University Pitt Center unannounced with nothing more than a friendly smile and what appeared to be not a care in the world, even though he knew better. On those occasions of media luncheons I always made sure I didn't get behind him or Dave Bike on the buffet line. When that happened, I was left with a Lenten fast!
To this day I don't know if he had a favorite sport. He covered them all and did so with enthusiasm and unmatched professionalism as if every game had a championship stake. After all, he was covering the event of someone's son or daughter. Nothing was more important than making those families proud of their children. At times he'd skip the score because the score wasn't as important as reporting about the lives of the participants. The human dimension was everything. He reported on our human-interest stories and provided taped highlight videos for everything we did. We honored him here at SHU with our athletics outstanding service award five years ago, not only because of his support, but for the counsel and friendship he offered. He was everything the award symbolized.
Over the years I observed a very public personality, yet a very private person. He much preferred to report on those who played and those whom had stories of victory and tragedy and odds overcome to tell, rather than to put himself in the limelight. He was the quintessential storyteller, not a newsmaker.
He drove a car that shouldn't have been allowed on the trolley line! Typically, he'd cover four to five events in one night, often returning to the Channel 12 newsroom with just enough time to put on a jacket and tie. He told me that often he'd fly into the newsroom having time just for the jacket and tie but did live reports from behind his desk in shorts and sneakers. He'd drive Anchorman Tom Appleby nuts!
When I think about Bill Gonillo, one word comes to mind — quality. A quality man, a responsive professional, the salt of the earth, my (our) friend. I will remember him always!
C. Donald Cook
Director of Athletics
Sacred Heart University