Wes Strader remembered by friends, WKU athletics family
Sixty one years ago, WKAY Radio in Glasgow hired an 18-year-old Western Kentucky student named Charles Wesley Strader.
Known as "Wes," the legendary Hilltoppers' football and basketball play-by-play announcer touched the lives of multiple generations of Hilltopper fans since then.
Since Strader's death Tuesday, the tributes have been pouring in honor of the Barren County native's passion for broadcasting and athletics – and his generosity in the giving of his time and insights to others.
One broadcaster – Strader – has a banner hanging in his honor at E.A. Diddle Arena. He had that kind of impact on WKU athletics and generations of Hilltopper fans.
"I believe if you had a Western Kentucky Mt. Rushmore for non-coaches and athletes, Wes Strader would be on it," WKU athletic director Todd Stewart said. "I mean, who has had more contact with more different people over the last 40 years than Wes Strader did."
Said WKU women's basketball coach Michelle Clark-Heard: "I'm just so blessed and fortunate to have been able to be around him twice in my life. As far as a player and as a coach."
Strader continued broadcasting up until his recent illness, co-hosting a postgame radio show with former Tops' basketball coach Jim Richards.
"Oh, he was terrific. He worked at it. He prepared every day for what was going on," Richards said. "Every game, he always knew players' names. And was just terrific in a broadcast situation."
"From those of us that listened to him before we got here, all through the time we were here, what an impact he had on us," added WKU athletic trainer emeritus Bill Edwards. "Just an outstanding announcer and a personal friend. And just a great guy."
Strader also had a profound impact on high school sports in creating the Wes Strader Schoolboy Classic for high school hoops.
"With his announcing all the state tournament games, and people coming to see him up there every year, you know, that meant a lot to the high schools across the state," said Edwards.
"That is a huge thing, because that is the banner of honor of great players and a great announcer that stayed around there 35 years," said Richards.
"He was a walking encyclopedia of WKU athletics," said Stewart. "And just a terrific ambassador for our entire athletic department."
"I don't think he ever met a stranger. Wes is a good man," WKU communications and media director emeritus Paul Just said. "If you wanted to talk Western (Kentucky) sports, he was an exceptional man."
Funeral services for Strader will be held Monday and Tuesday at Eastwood Baptist Church in Bowling Green.