AUGUSTA — Jon James gets up at 3:30 a.m. each workday and is on the air at 92 Moose 90 minutes later. After more than 25 years, he’ll do that for the final time on Friday.

James, a Randolph native who started at the station on Nov. 24, 1990, a few hours after the birth of his daughter Michelle, said he wanted his final show to coincide with his daughter’s 25th birthday last year. But circumstances at the station caused him to stay on the air a few more months.

“I wanted it to be meaningful when I left, and I wanted to go out on my own terms,” James, 54, said from the conference room at the station’s offices on Western Avenue in Augusta. “I put so much time into this morning show for so long, and I sometimes wonder why (the station) kept me for so long.”

He said the thing he’ll miss the most about the morning show is the interaction with listeners at the Top 40 station and his two on-air partners, Mac Dickson and Renee Nelson.

“I’m going to miss it severely,” James said. “It’s one of those things that gets in your blood, and I’m very grateful and thankful.”

Sometimes, James said, he listens to himself and wonders what has kept him on the air so long. He said he has had free rein on the morning show and has never had anybody tell him what he could or couldn’t do.

“I like relating to people, and that’s always been the thing about this radio station,” he said. “I’ve had no preconceived notion or false ego about how good I am.”

Dickson and Nelson, both of whom have more than 20 years at the station, will continue hosting the morning show beginning Monday. Dickson, the station’s operations manager, said James’ voice is a big one that will be missed.

“So many people have grown up listening to Jon, and he’s not just a voice coming out of your radio,” Dickson said. “He’s a friend that’s been with them every day for 25-plus years. He brought passion and his love of the job every single day.”

Dickson said the transition should go smoothly because of how much experience he and Nelson have in the mornings and how familiar they are with the 92 Moose listeners, though the show won’t be exactly the same.

“We might do a few things differently just because there are different personalities involved,” Dickson said. “Jon had certain things that he liked to do, and there might be certain things we like to do. It’ll just be one less voice.”

Nelson, the station’s news director, said it wasn’t a huge surprise when she learned James was leaving because she developed an unusual bond and friendship sitting face-to-face with him every morning.

“You know when things are changing,” Nelson said. “He’s retiring from doing the morning show, but he’s not retiring from my world.”

On a recent visit to the studio, James and his partners bantered about the results of the New Hampshire presidential primaries, gave away Jimmy Buffett concert tickets and took birthday shout-outs from listeners. Nelson read the news and weather, while Dickson offered his own perspective on the topics of the morning.

The studio is small, and because of some changes within the company, Nelson said her stool, laptop and counter are her office. The building, which also is home to country station B98.5, is being renovated. The 92 Moose studio, while clean, lacks some of the modern conveniences one might expect at a radio station. James said he always wished for bigger production capabilities and a bigger staff.

“I think it’s been phenomenal to do what we’ve done in a tiny market,” he said. “For a little market, this is a big-sounding radio station, and I’ve been very proud to be a part of it.”

Growing up, James played ‘radio’ in his bedroom. He said he started in the business when he was still in high school with the hopes of becoming a radio star.

He started working in Augusta in 1979 and had several offers to move to bigger markets in Oklahoma and Vermont, but once he got to 92 Moose 25 years ago, he knew he had found a home.

“I didn’t really care for the big city, and I knew I didn’t want to move around,” James said. “A horrible car accident in June 1980 was a life changer, and my whole outlook on life changed.”

James was traveling alone when he was broadsided by a pickup truck. He said he wasn’t wearing his seat belt and believes if he had worn it, he would have been killed. Instead, he was thrown to the other side of his Datsun B-210. He suffered a nearly severed spleen and a severe concussion and was hospitalized for two weeks.

One of the things James is looking forward to most in retirement is spending more time with his family. He has two children, Michelle, a nurse at Togus; and Matt, an on-air personality at 92 Moose. James said he cannot wait to take his grandson Evan to a playground or go to lunch and scenic drives with his aging father.

Matt James said it’s going to be strange not seeing his father in the studio anymore, and he credits his father for his success in the radio business.

“He is a beacon in central Maine and the voice that has so willingly and tirelessly gotten Mainers out of bed every morning,” Matt James said. “To say that I am proud of all he has done would be an understatement.”

Jon James’ wife of 34 years, Marie Anne, also a nurse at Togus, said it will be weird having her husband around in the mornings, because they’ve always worked different shifts.

“As long as he stays out of the kitchen on the days I work, he’ll be all right,” she joked. “And he can serve me breakfast in bed on the days I have off.”

She thinks her husband is tired and needs to spend more time with his family and focus on his health, so she is happy he’ll be able to dedicate more time to those things instead of spending hours and hours each day preparing for his next show.

“The biggest thing for him will be missing the Moose and all his listeners,” she said. “He’s done a lot for and is a big part of the community.”

James has had a long history with the Kennebec Valley YMCA, and though CEO Tom Warren has only been around for two years, he saw James’ value to the organization right away.

“It didn’t take me long to recognize and become impressed with Jon’s professional skill, enthusiasm and genuine interest in our YMCA,” Warren said in an email. “He truly understood the values of our organization and communicated the many positive ways our Y improves the quality of life in the Kennebec Valley region with a high degree of skill and passion.”

James said he will continue to interact with listeners and supporters via Facebook. Since his retirement was announced in January, well-wishers have flocked to the social media site to offer congratulations and kind words to the local radio giant.

One of those listeners, Tim Beaulieu, of Harmony, said James doesn’t just care about his listeners; he also cares about Maine.

“He makes you forget all your woes for those few hours in the mornings,” Beaulieu said in a Facebook message. “He will be sadly missed, but it’s great to see his son following in his footsteps.”

Jon James said he expects his final show to be emotional, and though he didn’t think there would be any surprises, he did say some past guests or listeners may show up to say goodbye.

He said he went into radio because it was a “cool way to meet people and make friends.” He said he wanted to make people happy and make people laugh.

“I just want people to say they liked listening because I made them smile and made them happy,” he said. “People must have found some redeeming value because they stuck around.”

James said he’ll stick around doing some part-time work for the station in addition to his other business ventures, namely voice-over work and his American Women Who Bear Arms organization and website.

“My life is going to be completely different, and it’s exciting and scary,” James said. “I have no regrets and I’ve made a lot of friends that will always be with me, and that’s what means the most.”

Listen to the “Rise And Shine” morning show intro below:

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

[email protected]

Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ

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