He’s got a way

Fran Riley and Paul Yeager in the KWQC-TV6 Newsroom in September of 2006.

There are few like him in the world, let alone in the media.

I can’t begin to fully describe Francis J Patrick O’Riley to you. My stories will be the same as anyone who’s ever met him, worked with him and most importantly, watched him in KWQC.

He’s a great co-worker, storyteller and most importantly, friend to all he’s dealt with over his nearly four decade career.

Right now, Fran Riley needs our prayers and support.

This week, he underwent surgery to remove a tumor on his brain. The doctors think it is the non-cancerous kind. I guess that’s good, but the words “brain tumor” get my attention.

Fran Riley's official KWQC-TV picture.

Fran was on a story last week with photojournalist Mike Colon. The pair was on assignment in rural Whiteside County near Morrison, Illinois. Following an interview, Mike took the camera gear out to the KWQC car and was waiting for Fran to join him to head back to the Quad Cities. But the interview subject came out to get Mike, saying, Fran didn’t seem right. Fran was dizzy, couldn’t stand up and was having a little trouble breathing. Fran was taken to the Morrison hospital where the doctors determined he needed to go to Iowa City for further treatment.

There, the doctors confirmed he had a brain tumor. He would have to stay in Iowa City to get ready for surgery. Fran is no stranger to hospitals as he’s been there before to have his heart worked on.

Just like before and now, Fran’s demeanor took over. He’s been in excellent spirits his whole life, including right now.

If there’s ever a case for “laughter is the best medicine,” Fran would never so much as have a headache.

Fran Riley2 KWQC It

Fran is a rare breed. He’s from Boston, Massachusetts and loves living in the midwest and he’s a good guy reporter. He’s been in the QC for almost, gulp, 40 years. He started as a weekend sports anchor at WHBF-TV before he was later  named sports director.

Following the one of thousands shown the door at Channel 4, Fran landed right side up across the river at KWQC-TV6 News. Fran reported and anchored for several years, anchored Saturday morning’s 630a and 9a newscasts. Those shows are memories right now, but Fran is not.

Mr. Riley’s been asked to cover every type of story. His best, are the features that put him in the middle of the singing valentine’s or school children’s good project. But he could knock a breaking news live shot out of the park with his clipboard and tape recorder in hand, all the while keeping his hair perfect.

The stories I remember most are Fran’s Saturday morning stories. After he would anchor the 9a news, he would head out, more times than not, to a parade. Everyone loves a parade, including Fran. He would sing Christmas carols at the Festival of Trees parade, the monster mash during Halloween parade and kiss the blarney stone, breaking out his heritage’s hits for St. Patrick’s Day. He’s be hanging out at the Bix, or a carnival or just plain laughing with people while putting his arm around them.

When I would arrive for the evening weekend shift, Fran and I would talk about the Cardinals or Cubs and usually did a little play-by-play with each other. We did this for six years and it was one of the best things about the job.

I’ve laughed with this guy during and now after my time in Davenport. I can hear his laugh today and have thought about it a lot this week. We were a family at 805 Brady Street.

Photo: Submitted Fran Riley, here with wife Marilyn, had surgery for brain cancer this week. Despite what he's dealing with, his always-sunny attitude is intact. (QCOnline.com)

He’s got help now in providing smiles all over the Quad Cities. His wife, Marilyn, is a bright ray of sunshine herself. Marilyn and Fran are two incredible people together who have been through a lot in their lives apart and now are dealing with another tough chapter, together.

There was a nice story by John Marx of the Argus/Dispatch about Fran. Great work, John. Here’s the link to that story. (The surgery was Thursday and was going to be at least an 8 hour procedure).

The doctors said they would only have to make a smaller cut to get to the tumor. So, his blond hair should stay and will soon be blown about in a live shot.

My best to Fran Riley, KWQC TV6 News.

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9 thoughts on “He’s got a way

  1. Paul,
    You think of Fran as many of us do. Fran and Erik on the weekends were just the best. His laugh is infectious. Let’s keep him in our thoughts and prayers…get him through this surgery…and get him back where he belongs…On the air!!!

  2. Great story about Fran. I was totally unaware of his recent health issues. He is indeed a great reporter and an even nicer man if that’s possible. I’ve seen and heard him for all of those years. Yikes indeed. I believe i first remember him with Spike O’Dell at KSTT 1170. Thanks and I enjoy your work too Paul!

  3. Thanks for this great story about Fran. I worked with Fran when I first became a producer at KWQC in 1997. I grew up watching him on TV and suddenly I was his producer. We had so much fun working on the Saturday morning shows together. I used to love to find crazy packages on the feeds just to make Erik and Fran laugh. My prayers go out to Fran and his family… and the family at KWQC as well.

  4. Wonderfully written, Paul. As anyone who has worked with Fran, I have a Fran story. Hank and I got married September 30, 1995. One sports anchor was attending his niece’s wedding, one sports anchor was reading at our wedding and the third sports anchor was, well, marrying me. Fran was no stranger to the sports anchor chair…just not at KWQC. Fran, without complaint, anchored sports that Saturday…his regular day off…his birthday…missing our wedding…but honoring us by taking one for the team. Prayers to you, Fran.

  5. What a wonderful story Paul. You have described Fran to a “t”. He’s a terrific guy, one of the best! I worked with Fran at KWQC for several years and everyone loves him – you can’t find a kinder or gentle man with a huge heart! Wiley and I are so blessed to be their friends. He continues to be in our prayers for a quick recovery.

  6. Paul – Great post! I always feel better running into Fran while out and about or on the occasions I’ve worked with him on behalf of a group. Let’s hope he gets better soon!! – Glenn Kass

  7. Very well said Paul. Praying that Fran comes through everything well and will soon be back on his beat. Hope nothing but the best for him and Marilyn.

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