By Jenny Neyman
Allen Auxier is a double rarity in radio.
As station manager of KDLL public radio in Kenai, most of his work for the last nearly 14 years has been done, as would be expected of the position, behind the scenes, rather than behind the microphone. Though his Thursday “Morning Concert” classical music program has been a staple at 91.9 FM for many years, mostly when he’s on air it’s to give the station ID, read announcements, preface tests of the emergency broadcast system and other such nonflashy nuts and bolts of radio work.
Yet to even occasional listeners, Auxier’s has been the voice of KDLL, whether or not they know the name behind it. In part it’s the tone — a resonance honed as an actor belting to the cheap seats above the clash of dishes and rustle of programs. But decibels are useless without diction, and Auxier’s got enunciation as etched as a freshly grooved LP. The usually ignored “h” in where and when, a victim of lazy English palates, is delivered with gusty accuracy. The “a” of that and chat gets the crispness of a mouth used to stretching in pronunciation calisthenics. Auxier’s is the type of voice that is distinguishable from a distance and discernable from the din of a crowded room.
But Auxier is known as more than the voice of KDLL. In a medium where people are heard, not seen, he’s gained the added distinction of being recognizable by sight as well as sound. With the signature beard and handlebar ’stache he’s had since being discharged from the Army in 1972, he’s not just been the face of KDLL, he’s been the moustache of it.
Until Friday, that is, when he took his 40-year career in TV and radio broadcasting off the air, tuning, instead, to retirement.
“Allen’s going to be a tough act to follow. He’s been around for such a long time and he’s so ingrained. He is KDLL,” said Ariel Van Cleave, the new station manager.
It’s been a good run, but a long one, and Auxier is ready for other pursuits with his wife, Mari, who is retiring at the end of June from the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District. House projects (for Allen), gardening (for Mari), traveling (for both), and more time for his hobbies — Friday poker games, volunteering with Rotary, community theater performances and riding his Harley-Davidson Electroglide Classic — are supplanting work responsibilities.
“I’ve been looking forward to it for a long time. I’ve been basically working in radio and TV for 40 years, working on Social Security for 52 years — it’s about time to start collecting. And today (Monday) happens to be my 66th birthday, so it was real easy figuring out what my last day of work was going to be,” he said.
His first day of work at KDLL was in June 2000, a newcomer to the Kenai Peninsula but a return to the state, having spent 21 years in Bethel.
Auxier grew up in the Phoenix area, graduating from Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Arizona, in 1970. That September he was drafted into the Army. Having a minor in Russian language in college, he figured on attending the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center in Monterey, California, and being deployed to Europe.
“I’d learn more Russian and go to Germany and listen to Radio Moscow on the headphones. That is what I figured was going to happen, but somewhere along the line I checked the box that said I enjoy camping and they put me in the infantry and sent me to Vietnam,” Auxier said.
Though a firearms buff — muzzle loading, particularly — and a supporter of veterans, he came back from Vietnam in 1972 with Montagnard bracelets protesting the war, made by Vietnamese craftsmen from old munitions shells. He still wears them today.
After his discharge from the service in 1972, he started working for the U.S. Teacher Corps, producing instructional TV programs for use on the Navajo Nation reservation. His boss at the time was a consultant on starting an instructional TV program at Kuskokwim Community College in Bethel, and mentioned a job opening for a producer/director. On Aug. 22, 1975, Auxier was in Alaska, on a plane to Bethel.
“When I was flying into the place I had that feeling in my heart, ‘I’m coming home.’ It was a great place to live. Horrible weather but really wonderful people,” Auxier said.