JOHN WINTER (1967 - 2007)
I had the day off from work Thursday, and had just turned on the television after putting away groceries to find out that one of Tampa Bay's best news personalities had taken his own life. My mouth opened in shock, and the tears began to well up within.
John Winter had built a loyal fan base during his 13 years handling the early morning/noon weather duties on NBC affiliate WFLA-TV 8. All one has to do is look among the thousands of rememberances and condolonces left on the guest book at WFLA's Web site. He was professional on-air but never took himself too seriously and was always ready to lighten up the mood for viewers as well as co-anchors Bill Ratliff and Gayle Guyardo. That was a big part of why I enjoyed tuning in to their early morning broadcast; it helped put me in a lighter mood for the day to come.
If this sad episode teaches us anything, it is that within every one of us there is a demon, ready to take control at any time. Regardless of how happy-go-lucky we may seem, that demon is just below the surface. It may manifest itself through various forms of addiction, depression, or other behaviour. It's how we control the demon within that counts.
The thoughts and prayers of I4J are with John's wife Karen, family, collegues, and fans throughout the region. He will be truly missed.
Those individuals wishing to make charitable donations in John's name are being encouraged to do so to two organizations with which he was especially active:
Rough Riders Teddy Bear Drive
Post Office Box 75892
Tampa, Florida 33675
Hillsborough County Animal Services
Post Office Box 89159
Tampa, Florida 33689
SPCA of Lakeland/Polk County
5850 Brannen Road, South
Lakeland, Florida 33813
"He must have been a gardener that cared a lot
Who weeded out the tears and grew a good crop
Now we pray for rain, and with every drop that falls
We hear, we hear your name
Johnny, can't you come out to play in your empty garden"
--- Sir Elton John / Bernie Taupin, from "Empty Garden (Hey Hey Johnny)"