Friends and community members remember the life and legacy of Shirley Love

OAK HILL, WV (WOAY) – We were saddened to hear about the passing of one of our own on Friday. Legendary WOAY broadcaster and state legislator Shirley Love passed away at the age of 87.

Love is leaving a lasting legacy not just here at the station, but throughout the county and the state. 

We caught up with friends and community members to reflect on his career, charisma and love for the people of West Virginia.

Dave Perry was in the House of Delegates when Love was a state senator, but they first met back when Perry was 18 and running for the county clerk position in Fayette County.

“He could talk to anyone at anytime about an array of subjects. And he basically, fundamentally cared about people,” Perry said. 

Shirley Love simply cannot be labeled as one thing or one profession, but before Fayette County and the rest of the state knew him for his face, his shows, and his politics, it was all about that magic voice as he started first at WOAY Radio.

He did play-by-play for local sports and then hosted a “Jukebox Review” radio show for 20 years.

In 1954 he also joined WOAY-TV, the first TV station in the area, where he anchored the news and hosted several programs including Friday Night Barn Dance, West Virginia Bandstand and of course, Saturday Night Wrestling. 

Dean Bibb was an intern for the station in the ’90s and although at this point, Love was working in a sales position for the station, Bibb sat down with Love to do a documentary for his senior project in high school about his career and wrestling show. 

“They were right here in our backyard with a regional wrestling program that all the stars would come through. And Shirley was a huge part of it. He would interview the fans. He would occasionally find himself getting involved with some of the wrestlers and their anger issues,” Bibb laughed. 

And through his programs, his versatility and large personality, he became a household name in his 43-year career with WOAY that has spanned generations. 

“I grew up hearing stories of my mom and dad and my grandparents and aunts, uncles, cousins, you name it,” Longtime fan Brad Yost said. “And they would talk about sitting in front of the TV watching Saturday Night Wrestling with Shirley Love and also watch him anchor the news and the West Virginia Bandstand.” 

“And he always signed off from Bandstand: ‘Be sure and go to church tomorrow morning.’ And then wrestling it was: ‘Let’s call in the dogs,'” Perry said. 

He used his personality, his charm and of course that voice in politics as well.

He was a state senator for Fayette County from 1994 to 2008 and then jumped to the House from 2016 to 2018. He was best known for his floor speeches, his influence and for being a man of the people. 

“He actually attained legendary or iconic status as a result of really seven decades of political activity, public service,” Bill Laird, friend and Senate successor, said. “He was very active in the community. He had a a lot of friends. Really had a tremendous impact on politics not only in Southern West Virginia but throughout the state of West Virginia.” 

Aside from his accomplishments and stardom, Love was a family man, a husband of 68 years, a proud father and a doting grandfather.

Although he is no longer with us, his legacy will live on for generations here at WOAY, in Fayette County and beyond through the stories he’s told and the lives he’s touched. 

“The last time I talked to Senator Love was last evening, and that point, you know, he was beginning to slip in and out,” Perry said. “He was very concerned about his wife and that someone would look after his wife. He was concerned about me, and of course I had prayer with him and asked that the Lord let him pass peacefully and quickly unless He could heal him. And he attested to his faith and he attested again to his public service.”

Visitation will take place on Sunday from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at Calvary Baptist Church in Oak Hill. The funeral will be on Monday at 1 p.m. also at Calvary Baptist Church.

You can view Love’s obituary here. 

Anna Saunders
Anna Saunders is a weekend reporter for WOAY. With a diploma from Princeton Senior High School and a mother from Fayette County, she is no stranger to the area. She received a degree in Media Arts and Design from James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia and wanted to return home to start her career as a reporter.