Radio personality Frank Barber dies at 72
A local radio broadcaster who had become known as the most trusted man in Seneca County was described Sunday by his colleagues as an incredible writer who had a passion for his job.
Frank Sbelgio – better known to Seneca County residents as Frank Barber – died Saturday evening at Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center, Toledo. He was 72.
Steve Gilbert, who got to know Barber in the 1990s when he coached Columbian High School’s football team, said Barber was born to be a radio personality.
“Nobody was more pro-Tiffin than Frank,” he said.
Keith Hodkinson, president and general manager of SenecaCountyRadio.com, called Barber a “gem.” He said Barber had been sick for a while and was in a lot of pain.
“He came to work every single morning,” he said.
Hodkinson said Barber had the potential, if he had wanted to years ago, to become a network broadcaster. Becoming a network broadcaster meant one had to move often and work at different stations, always going to bigger ones. But, Barber had a family with young children. He decided family would come first, and because of that decision, he never made it to the top, Hodkinson said.
Family was more important to him than any job, he said.
Hodkinson said he was in the cable television business, so he knew of Barber when he came to Tiffin from Pennsylvania in the mid-1990s. The two met in 2000 when Hodkinson went to WTTF to do a morning show, and Hodkinson said they became close friends.
When Clear Channel started making changes, Barber was transferred to Findlay and later was let go with a lot of other Clear Channel employees, Hodkinson said.
When Hodkinson started SenecaCountyRadio.com in August 2011, he called Barber, told him what he was going to do and asked whether he had an interest in being the newscaster for the new station.
“I wanted to work with him again,” he said.
Hodkinson said Barber was not one who liked being in the limelight and didn’t necessarily like going out and doing public appearances. He did appearances because he knew he had to do it, he said.
Hodkinson, who named one of his dogs after Barber, said Barber was an incredible writer. He understood the business of broadcasting because he understood the job newscasters had to serve the public interest, he said.
“He understood that our job was to make sure the public was informed so he had fun doing it. Frank would tell great stories on the air,” he said.
Gilbert said he and Barber started broadcasting Heidelberg University and Tiffin University games together soon after they met in 1994. Gilbert said Barber was a joy to be with, and the two shared ideas.
“I think we complemented each other,” he said.
Barber provided the play-by-play, and Gilbert could insert analysis from a coach’s perspective.
Gilbert said when he started working with Hodkinson, he and Barber would drive to games together. They seldom talked about football when driving to and from the games.
Barber’s genuine nature and loyalty were unmatched, he said.
“When you met Frank, you knew what you were (getting). He wasn’t one to try to impress you,” he said.
Gilbert said radio was Barber’s lifestyle. It was never a job to Barber, who had a passion for his job, he said. Barber, a down-to-earth and good-hearted person, had a huge impact on the community, he said.
“I’ll just miss him very much,” he said.