VIRGINIA SERETNY

        1923-2000

For many years, Virginia Seretny had been our longest tenured employee.   When Herb Rice purchased WILI in May of 1959 he made an immediate effort to diversify programming.  He wanted good ethnic programming for the weekend, especially a Polka program on Sunday mornings.  At that time, Virginia and husband Joe operated a package store at 953 Main Street, between the post offices.  Herb had met Virginia at the store and coaxed her to become the Polka Show host.  She had no previous radio or musical experience, but he was persuasive. 

 

(CLICK ON ALL PHOTO IMAGES TO ENLARGE)

Virginia did her first show on the second Sunday in September in 1960 when the station was out on Route 6.  Station Chief Engineer Leyton Gage taught Virginia how to operate the broadcast board and spin the turntables.  She was a methodic learner.  She asked good questions and once she had it down,  she never forgot the technical parts of a DJ's job.   She chose the Polka classic Whoopie-Shoopie as her theme and made it her trademark.   In 1961 WILI was moved to a spot that was directly across from the package store, into the new Lonergan Building at 948 Main.  Engineers Terry King and Gage finished the wiring of the main air studio working overnight on a Saturday and Virginia arrived that Sunday morning at 8 to be the first DJ to learn and operate the new studio.  She bragged often about that feat.  For the next four decades, her Polka Show occupied various 2-and-3 hour Sunday morning shifts.  She seldom missed a show, including holidays. 

February 1980

 

She learned about "The Chicago Style" of Polka music and brought much of it to her program.  This made her very controversial in Polka circles and estranged her from much of that community around the state.  But she stuck to her guns (everyone who knew her was not surprised by that) and the people loved it.  Many listeners permanently adjusted their Sunday worship routines to work around the Polka Show.  Shortly after the move to 948, Herb started a Polka Show with Virginia on WINY in Putnam, CT, which he also owned.  With a long distance phone circuit, a remote studio was built in a second floor office at 948 for the purpose of "feeding" a second Polka Show.  Virginia would do a couple of hours on WILI, walk upstairs and do another hour live for WINY.  This double shift was her routine into the '70s.  

 

February 1980

She worked long hours at home listening to music and preparing her shows using Joe as her test audience.  He  called her "Ginge".  She got demo Polka records every week from promoters all over the country.  She brought her selected records for each show to the station in a small record case labeled, "Polka DJ, Keep U Hans Off!"  She built a loyal audience all over the area including some towns where the WILI signal is weak.  She was honored by many Polish organizations from Jewett City to Chicago. 

On January 20, 1991, Virginia was honored by the Dick Pillar Polkabration Fan Club for "30 years promoting Polka Music" at an event in Jewett City.

On August 7, 1993, Virginia became the second woman to be inducted into the Living Category of the International Polka Association Polka Music Hall Of Fame.  Click here to learn more.   She served as Vice President of the International Polka Association. 

She was not always "politically correct", but you always knew where you stood with her.  She communicated at gut level. Other than her family, her Polka show was the most important thing in her life. 

 

Virginia on the air July 4, 1999, just hours before the WILI Boom Box Parade

One of the dictionary definitions for the word "religion" is "A cause, principle, or belief held with faith and ardor."  Her Sunday routine was another "religion" for thousands of Eastern Connecticut listeners.   September 10th, 2000  would have been her 40th anniversary.

 

"Goodah By Sweedah Heart"

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