A Life Remembered: 'Big teddy bear' newsman recalled for depth of his dedication

A Life Remembered: 'Big teddy bear' newsman recalled for depth of his dedication

CHAMPAIGN — There were nights during central Illinois snowstorms when Dave Shaul, the news director at WCIA-TV, would sleep at the station to make certain that someone was there to report on and anchor the morning news.

That was the depth of his dedication to the news and the station, his colleagues recalled Monday on the day that the Champaign native and onetime state high school speech competition winner passed away at the age of 75.

"I'm not sure he ever missed a day because of health or weather over the years. He was a person who did everything in the newsroom and was willing to do anything for the station," said Carl Caldwell, who began work at WCIA in 1973, about 10 years after Mr. Shaul began there. "But he was good at everything. That's what made him unique, his ability to do everything well and to be liked and well-respected by his colleagues."

Dick Adams, whose time at WCIA nearly matched Mr. Shaul's, said "he was the consummate TV newscaster and news director.

"I remember him saying once that he had offers to go to other markets, but he thought folks in central Illinois deserved a high quality news product, and he felt the need to give that to them," Adams said.

Jennifer Roscoe, who was hired by Mr. Shaul as an intern in 1992 and continues to anchor WCIA newscasts, said his commitment to the station was boundless.

"The stories are out there that if there was a snowstorm, that he would sleep in the lobby just to make sure that somebody was there to do the news. He did every role. It didn't matter how small," she said. "He was the news director, and he would empty the garbage cans. He would do writing. He would fill in wherever there needed to be someone. He would anchor. He would produce. He was so talented."

Mr. Shaul's "hard work instilled in me this work ethic. He was always willing to give 110 percent so he brought you up to his level. I never wanted to disappoint him. It made me work harder at my job and to learn the business and learn what news is. He gave me this foundation that I am so grateful for. The lessons that he taught me I hear myself using those same words and lessons for the new people at Channel 3. I channel Dave every single day, and I'm so lucky to have worked for him."

And Mr. Shaul was like a second father to Roscoe, she said, because her father died when she was a student at the University of Illinois.

"He elevated all of us. We all wanted to do our very best every day because, honestly, I didn't want to disappoint my dad. I didn't want to disappoint Dave. I wanted to make him proud," she said.

* * * *

John Paul, now a University of Illinois television news instructor who worked under Mr. Shaul and succeeded him as news director in 1999, called Mr. Shaul "the best mentor I've ever had."

He cited Mr. Shaul's "personal sacrifice for the sake of the people he worked with. There are so many people who can say Dave Shaul is the guy who made a difference in my career."

Paul Davis, who worked with Mr. Shaul at WCIA from 1963 to 1980, said "there's probably nobody I respected more than Dave Shaul. You know how you feel like if you can't finish your sentence and someone can finish it for you? That's the way it was for the two of us."

Although Mr. Shaul started in 1963 as a street reporter, he soon was promoted.

"He immediately fit in and was comfortable, and he wrote real good copy. He wrote a lot of the copy I read in the early years," said Davis, an Effingham native and longtime WCIA anchorman.

Eventually, Mr. Shaul anchored the morning and noon news coverage, and Davis had the evening and nighttime newscasts.

"We worked it out that if anything happened overnight, the police had my number until 3 a.m., and then they had his number to call," Davis recalled. "One night when there was a big fire across from the courthouse in Urbana — we called each other on big stories just to make sure we were covered — I talked to him, and he said, 'What time is it anyway?' and I looked at my clock in the dark, and I said, 'It's 10 until 5,' and he said, 'Oh, I've got to get up and go to the trustees meeting in Chicago.'

"That afternoon, I heard him walking down the hall when he got back, and he says, 'Where's Davis? I'm going to kill him.' I said, 'Here I am; what's the matter? He said, 'I got up and had coffee and got ready to go, and it wasn't 10 to 5. It was 25 after 2.'"

* * * *

Karen York, now the office manager at WDWS, began working with Mr. Shaul in the mid-1990s. She called him "a voice of calm" in a sometimes frenetic TV newsroom.

"The biggest thing is how he, like everyone else says, was so even-keeled and very helpful to everyone," said York, who had been hired as the newsroom secretary.

"He taught me how to edit and other things. I knew nothing, absolutely nothing about television, and he taught me all of that," she said. "I never saw him angry. I remember his hugs. We'd have something good happen, or when my mom passed away, he was there. He would hug always. He was just that big teddy bear type of guy."

Mr. Shaul left WCIA in 1999 ("He got bounced by Nexstar — the station's new owner — because he made more than $100 a week," joked Davis) and quickly went to WDWS. There he remained for more than 15 years, even anchoring the station's election coverage last November although he was fighting the cancer that eventually claimed his life.

Mr. Shaul also remained active in community affairs, including the Champaign-Urbana Symphony (which his father, Verrolton C. Shaul, had helped found), the Kiwanis Club and the Tom Jones Challenger League.

The baseball league for physically and mentally challenged youngsters is sponsored by the Champaign-Urbana Kiwanis Club and named for the late sports anchor at WCIA who spent most of his life in a wheelchair.

* * * *

Rick Schoell said he and Mr. Shaul helped run and promote the league for several years.

"I was interested in coaching Little League. I had no real experience working with mentally and physically challenged youngsters. I didn't know how I would respond," Schoell said. "I am very grateful. It's been one of the richest experiences of my life."

He said Mr. Shaul was "one of the most genuine people I know. He embodies what the league is all about: to allow people who otherwise might not have an opportunity to experience baseball and pure joy to give them an environment to do that."

Roscoe, who has a special-needs daughter who plays in the Challenger League, said, "I was lucky that in our second lives together, after he had left (WCIA), that I saw him on Saturdays out at the baseball games.

"That just shows what kind of a person he is. He wasn't just a good person in the newsroom. He was invested in the community and especially with these special-needs kids."

Mr. Shaul was honored with the Associated Press Mark Twain Lifetime Achievement Award, named to the Eastern Illinois University Hall of Fame and designated a lifetime member of the Illinois News Broadcasters Association. In 2012, he received the Lifetime Achievement award from the Mid-America Emmy Association for his dedication to the news industry of central Illinois.

Sections (2):News, Local
Topics (2):People, Television

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Kevin Knott wrote on May 23, 2017 at 8:05 am

Even to the most recent times of hearing Mr. Shaul's voice covering the November 2016 elections or on WDWS/WHMS, it always reminded me of being a young boy during the mid- 1970's in the summer-time.  I had regular lunches with my aunt/uncle at noon with WCIA on in the background and we would always be sure not to miss Mr. Shaul give the mid-day farm report of corn/beans/wheat prices. Something so nonchalant to most people but brings back great child-hood memories to my brother and I.   

Mr. Shaul will certainly be missed by many including the generations of folks' who saw him on the news.  Condolences to his family and close friends.  

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