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NSPR celebrates the life of Weekend Showcase host Tom Kinnee

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Jodi Rives
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Tom Kinnee at the Blue Room Theatre.

This past month the NSPR family lost one of its past family members. Longtime NSPR volunteer, Tom Kinnee, passed away in Santa Monica at 69.

Kinnee hosted Weekend Showcase at the station for nearly 20 years, where he championed local arts in the North State.

He was an avid follower and advocate of the local community's theater and the arts. His passion for his work made an impression on everyone at the station.

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Nancy Wiegman of Nancy's Bookshelf worked with him for many years, occasionally co-hosting Weekend Showcase.

"I have fond memories of Tom as a colleague,” she said. “He was very diligent and conscientious and is such a nice guy that he was a real pleasure to work with."

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Weekend Showcase aired on NSPR for close to two decades.

It's that diligence and hard work that All Things Considered host and news anchor Ken Devol remembers most about Tom, saying it's something he always really appreciated about him.

"He spent an inordinate amount of time putting that show together every week, I estimate 20 hours a week. And that was all on his time, he wasn't compensated for that. He did it week after week after week," he said.

Dolores Mitchell, who co-hosted Weekend Showcase with Tom, said he knew virtually every actor in town personally.

He had a remarkable memory that she said led to probing questions in interviews, all while enduring the painful symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis.

"But once he began an interview, he became a totally different person, he lit up inside, and he had such enthusiasm and vitality," she said. "It was his, his if he was saving himself to do this very important job of making publicity for local theater."

Mitchell said Tom made all the actors and artists he worked with feel like they were worthwhile and celebrated.

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An hour-long Twilight Zone episode production titled "Jess-Belle" at the Blue Room Theatre.

This was especially clear during episodes of the show where Tom was interviewed alongside his cast he was directing at the Blue Room Theater.

"You could see there was a real love in the interchange between Tom and his cast. And I thought it was wonderful that Tom had such a varied background,” she said. “He directed theater, he acted himself. He taught classes at Butte in acting, and he gave interviews about the theaters. So he was an all-rounded person who brought the best out of the theater people that he interviewed."

He also brought out the best in what was happening locally in the arts community. As NSPR's Social Media and Web Editor, Angel Huracha put it — Tom deeply cared about the arts and he wanted others to too.

"I think we forget that the arts are very important,” Huracha said. “He was the source to the local community and, kind of like, the information guide letting you know that arts exist in the community. And he wanted to make sure that you knew about it."

A memorial service was held Saturday, Jan. 15 at Theatre on the Ridge in Paradise from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. He will be sorely missed by the Chico art community and all of us who knew him.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Kinnee passed away in Santa Barbara. Kinnee passed away peacefully in Santa Monica last month.

Adia White is a broadcast journalist and producer with nearly 10 years of experience. Her work has appeared on WNYC, This American Life, Capital Public Radio and other local and national programs. She started at North State Public Radio as a freelance reporter in 2017 before leaving for a stint at Northern California Public Media in Santa Rosa.
Sarah is an award-winning reporter, producer and editor. She’s worked at North State Public Radio for six years and was previously the station’s News Director before leaving to study at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism.