Les Brown says he first heard about KNOM in a radio broadcasters’ magazine, which stated a Catholic radio station in Nome, Alaska needed help. When he asked his wife, Paula, in jest whether she thought they should go, her one-word answer changed everything: “When?”
Les and Paula first arrived in Nome in July 1972, when they became simultaneously KNOM’s first married volunteers and the first family, bringing their two-year-old son. Les worked at the radio station and Paula was the parish’s religious education (CCD) director.
“Every blessing I’ve experienced in my life is somehow because of serving at KNOM. I knew it was the right thing to do,” Les said.
Since moving south to Palmer, Alaska, in 2006, Les has made frequent trips back to KNOM to help with various engineering tasks. Most recently, Les spent many weeks in Nome this spring, announcing, engineering, and training new staff.
The Browns, who have dodged public recognition for decades, were honored with a personal caricature of the couple. They were also honored with a personal gift of milk and cookies from KNOM’s Board of Directors. It is a joking reference to Les’ overnight show, “Burning the Midnight Oil”, which Les records daily from their home in Palmer and sends to Nome for airplay. Each night at 2 a.m., Les signs off by telling listeners it’s time to go home and have some milk and cookies.
Paula also received a half-century old handmade ivory necklace by an artist she believes lived next door to them during her volunteering days in 1973. Through the window, she would often watch him carve beads on a lathe made from a converted treadle powered sewing machine.
Thank you, Brown family, for the incredible care and dedication you have shown to KNOM and listeners of Western Alaska.
Image above: Some members of KNOM’s staff and board gathered at the station’s 50th anniversary dinner. (Note that as nearly all were vaccinated, masks were not required.) Les and Paula Brown, in front, were officially honored for the half century of volunteered engineering services Les has given the mission.