Updated: February 5, 2012 at 12:00 am
Lee Douglas, a local KOAA newscaster known for his passion for sports and teddy bear personality, died suddenly at a Pueblo hospital early Sunday.
He was 57.
“He was this big bear guy who was full of life and full of love,” said Georgiann Lymberopoulos, who worked with Douglas from 1994 until she left the station in late 2011.“He was the guy you always wanted to be around. My heart is absolutely broken.”
According to friends, the KOAA sports director went to the hospital Saturday night and died early Sunday of kidney failure. His unexpected death moved local newscasters — trained to be stoic when reporting tough stories — to tears.
“When you think of the family that Channel 5 is and has always been, he was one of the fathers,” said weather anchor Craig Eliot, who had worked with Douglas since 1995. “As a family, it’s like your dad just died.”
Douglas, whose legal name was actually Douglas Lee Cooley, grew up in Pueblo and graduated from Centennial High School in 1973. In 1977, he received his bachelor’s degree in mass communications from the University of Southern Colorado, now CSU-Pueblo. He had worked off and on for KOAA 5 since 1979 and was named sports director in 2000, a position he held at the time of his death. His broadcasting career won him several awards including several Colorado Broadcasting and Associated Press awards and a 2005 induction into the Greater Pueblo Sports Association Hall of Fame. The Gazette twice named him best local sportscaster.
Along with his work at KOAA, Douglas had been the color commentator for Air Force football games since 2004, working with play-by-play announcer Jim Arthur.
“Lee was so amazing,” Arthur said Sunday. “He always had a smile on his face. He always had a great big laugh. Any time you were in his presence, Lee made you feel warm and comfortable.”
Arthur called him the “dean” of local sports in southern Colorado.
“He certainly was the expert,” said Arthur, who is also head anchor for KVOR radio’s morning show. “He dug deeper and got to know the people and got to know the personalities and why they did what they did.”
Above all, his friends said, he was known for his generous personality.
“Lee had the gift for really making everyone feel welcome,” said KOAA news director Michael Langley. “If you were to go to lunch with Lee, it doesn’t matter where you were, people would come up to him and say ‘Hey Lee,’ and he would greet them like he would greet friends. He was that open and generous with his time.”
Eliot said anyone who met Douglas knew that they had met a person who was ‘absolutely genuine.’
“He is the complete opposite of what television has become,” Eliot said. “He wasn’t flashy. He didn’t try to be Mr. Television. He just loved sports. He loved talking about it.”
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