Gene Gleeson retires after 30 years with ABC7

LOS ANGELES /*Gene Gleeson*/ doesn't stand still for very long, he's always going somewhere. Now he's retiring from a career that has placed him right in the middle of history.

In 1989, Gene convinced /*Channel 7*/ that it would be a good idea to send a local news crew to be eyewitness to the fall of communism.

"That's probably the biggest, most monumental or momentous story that I ever covered was the /*fall of the Berlin Wall*/," said Gene.

The day when Gene would retire -- June 30 -- was very deliberately chosen.

"One of the reasons I'm retiring now is because it's exactly 40 years from the time I did my very first story," he said.

In fact, Gene's career began 50 years ago as a teenaged DJ at his dad's radio station KICO in Calexico.

Gene was born and raised in Riverside. After graduating from Ramona High School in 1962, he took time off for a surfing safari in Hawaii before starting college at San Diego State University. In 1966, he was drafted into the Army and served in the American Forces Network in Germany, where he met his wife Traute.

Gene finally finished college in 1970 and got his first TV jobs in San Diego -- first at KFMB and then KGTV, the ABC station.

Gene, a private pilot, first applied his knowledge of aviation to his reporting on Sept. 25, 1978, while covering the Pacific Southwest Airlines crash, the nation's deadliest airline disaster to that date.

"The reason I probably got the job at Channel 7 in Los Angeles was my coverage of the PSA crash on Sept. 25, 1978. And I get chills still thinking about that because I saw the airplane crashing," said Gene.

Gene started at /*KABC-TV*/ 30 years ago.

"Thirty years... It's gone by in a blink of an eye, so fast. But when I came to Channel 7 the first story I covered was moving the Spruce Goose out of its longtime hanger in Long Beach because they needed the space," said Gene.

He parlayed aviation to astronauts, and thoroughly covered the space shuttle program. Gene was there for the first space shuttle flight in April 1981, the Challenger disaster in 1986, the Columbia disaster in 2003, the first flight of the Stealth Bomber in 1989, and all the Voyager planetary flybys.

"Those first missions were very exciting because they were test missions really and the coverage was huge," said Gene.

And his finesse reporting live on a B-1 Bomber landing in distress earned him a flight in the pilot's seat, making him the first news reporter to fly the Air Force's B-1 Bomber.

"We went supersonic in that airplane, the only airplane that I've gone supersonic in," said Gene.

Gene anchored Eyewitness Newscasts from weekends to mornings and midday, with coverage of L.A.'s major stories. He is and always will be a history buff and a storyteller, and nobody tells a story better.

"There's no better feeling than having a good story that you've spent some time on come together very well. Then [you] go on the air and you feel like a million bucks because that story, that was a good story," said Gene.

He'll always be remembered at Channel 7 as a man in motion, whether he's in his electric car, a green technology he embraced before it was popular, or on his bicycle, where his enthusiasm was hard match.

Maybe he was thinking about those stomach churning military flights like his ride in the Air Force T-38 when summing up his career in uncharacteristic brevity: "It's been a great ride."

We invite you to share some of your memories of Gene in the comments below!

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