|This site is dedicated in loving memory of:
William Francis "Billy" Gonillo. (1962-2007)
On September 23rd, 2007, Connecticut lost one of its favorite sons. Billy Gonillo entered into rest suddenly due to natural causes. He left us far too early. He had been battling diabetes for 20 years and was only 44 years old. Bill was born on December 11, 1962 in Waterbury, Ct.
Billy grew up in a devout catholic family and is the son of Vito Nicholas Gonillo and Judith (Melchiore) Gonillo of Waterbury. He was a graduate of Bunker Hill Grammar School and Holy Cross High School, (class of 1980). He had a B.A. in Mass Communication from the University of Hartford.
For 12 years Bill was the popular sports director at Cablevision News 12 in Norwalk (1995-2007). He began his career in 1983 with a splash as a production assistant at a then little known cable network called ESPN. In 1985, he got his first break in radio as the sports director at WNAQ-AM in Waterbury. In the late 80's and early 90's he was the sports director at WELI-AM in New Haven. He became well known as "the voice" of Yale football, basketball, and hockey. He went on to work as a television sports anchor on WVIT in Hartford, WTWS in New London, and WTXX in Waterbury. He was a pregame, half-time, and postgame host for the Hartford Whalers and Boston Celtics. He also hosted "Press Pass" on WTWS-TV, a weekly call-in sports talk show. Throughout his career he announced a variety of sporting events on ESPN and other networks and was the co-host of Inside Yankee Baseball on ESPN radio with Rich Marazzi. Along the way he covered virtually every major event in Connecticut sports, usually doing his own camera work while conducting an interview at the same time.
From the beginning it became evident that Billy didn't get into the business in search of fame or fortune. He was truly most concerned about telling a story and interacting with people. He was especially passionate about high school sports and enjoyed bringing young athlete's stories home to their families on a daily basis. He made News 12 the place to go for the latest and most comprehensive scholastic news in Fairfield County.
Bill was well respected by his colleges for his hard work and dedication to his craft. He was the winner of numerous broadcasting awards. (Most of which lay in a box and those closest to him didn't even know he had won them. Billy was never one for self-promotion.) He won the Associated Press "Broadcast of the Year" award twice as the voice of Yale University sports for WELI radio and three times as sports director for News 12. He is the only announcer in Connecticut broadcast history to have won the honor for work in both radio and television.
Billy had a wonderful down to earth on-air style and flare that drew an enormous fan base. Those that knew him only from TV or radio can take solace in knowing that they truly did know the real Bill. He didn't have a phony bone in his body. He handled the microphone, podium, or television camera with ease. He had a great memory and rarely needed notes or the teleprompter. He made his job look easy, not just because he was great at it, but, because he really loved what he was doing.
It is likely he will be remembered more for his special brand of self-deprecating humor and jovial personality. He was often invited to be master of ceremonies at various functions all over Connecticut. He thoroughly enjoyed his affiliations with several notable organizations, including the Connecticut Association of Athletic Directors, New Haven Gridiron Club (Board of Directors), Walter Camp Football Foundation, New Haven Football Foundation, Easter Seals, American Sportscasters Association, and most recently being the master of ceremonies at the Nutmeg Games. In true Billy form, he was also proud of the other lesser known organizations he took part in, such as the fan site for his favorite TV show, "The Odd Couple Message Board".
Everyone that got to know Bill quickly found out that he'd rarely call people by their real name. He simply would come up with a new name that he felt was more appropriate and sounded better. When you got "the name change", that meant your ticket was officially punched to the wonderful world of Billy. For some, it became just an affectionate twist of phonics. More likely it was a tie to an old athlete, a clever reference to a figure from history, or some character from an obscure movie.
Billy truly loved all sports and was a great sports fan. He was an amazing trivia buff and knew as much about sports details and statistics as anyone. Everyone was very well aware that his favorite sports team was the Dallas Cowboys. He was a diehard fan and bled Cowboy silver and blue all the way back to Super Bowl V. He was a loyal Yankee fan as well. Billy was also an avid golfer and enjoyed the competition.
Besides sports, Billy was a patriotic American and a well read student of history. He also loved classic movies and television shows and could quote his favorite scenes at will. He also had a great passion for music. He may have actually known more about music than sports. You couldn't stump him with trivia on either. He had a wide range of favorites that included Frank Sinatra and the Beatles. He had a great singing voice too and wasn't shy about letting you hear it.
He had a knack for the spotlight and lit up every room he entered. It has been said he would work the press room like a mayoral candidate, only he wasn't looking for a vote. He was just that friendly. He had no problem taking center stage, but, was just as satisfied to wander the sidelines and talk to a freshman football player, a junior varsity coach, or a soccer mom. Billy treated everyone with respect and frowned on self-absorbed or fake people. He made everyone he met on the job or in daily life feel special and that they were no less important than him. He probably had a thousand casual acquaintances who felt as close to him as many of us do with our best friends. He treated people with humor, sincerity, and instantly put them at ease.
Billy gave 100% of himself to his work and most especially to his friends and family. The most important thing to him in the world was his family. Bill never said no to those he knew and never asked for anything in return. Despite his tremendous work load he always found time for his family. He never missed a family function no matter how big or small.
He was everything that anyone needed him to be without failure. He had the ability to bring laughter and good will to any gathering. He loved trading comedic barbs and did so with affection. He didn't mind being the butt of the jokes and could take it as well as he could dish it out. He never took himself too seriously and seemed to always keep life in the perfect perspective. He had the chance along the way at bigger jobs with more money, but, would never take them because that meant moving away from those he loved.
Billy was adored and loved by all those lucky enough to have met him, enriching our lives, bringing us smiles and laughs. Our lives will never be the same now that he is gone. We have holes in our hearts and he will forever be missed...
Thank you for joining us in celebration of Billy's life!