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Mary Jo Perino recently prepared for a live broadcast from the SEC Tournament in Nashville. (Gary Moyers photo)

Mary Jo Perino recently prepared for a live broadcast from the SEC Tournament in Nashville. (Gary Moyers photo)

By LARRY VAUGHT

If you are a Kentucky football or basketball fan, you likely know WLEX-TV (Channel 18) sports anchor Mary Jo Perino. She’s been a smiling face that openly roots for the Big Blue but yet comes across as knowledgeable and fair and not a homer.

Soon she’ll be leaving her job to pursue other opportunities that will make it easier for her to spend time with her 7-year-old son. Our loss is her gain and her son’s gain and how could you not be happy for her.

Still, after watching her for 10 years at WLEX (2002 to 2006 and then from 2007 until now after a brief stint in Atlanta), it’s not going to be quite the same without her.

Just ask Alan Cutler, the sports director at WLEX. He’s worked all 10 years with Perino and their Friday night high school football show was  must-see TV because of the way they interacted. So what will he miss most once she’s gone?

“It’s not one story, it’s the one liners that go up and back. MJP is a closer. She’s great at making a comment that you can’t answer back because it’s on the edge. It’s funny and she knows I can’t respond because the response won’t be politically correct. And she knows exactly what she’s doing,” Cutler said.

She also worked with Ryan Lemond, now a co-host on the syndicated Kentucky Sports Radio weekday morning sports talk show, at Channel 18.

“Mary Jo is one of the my favorite co-workers of all time. It was always a joy to come to work when Mary Jo was there,” Lemond said. “Her desk was directly behind my desk, so it was always a treat for me to have a co-worker that was not only very, very talented, but also a very, very good friend.

“I’m so proud of her. I kind of feel like a ‘big brother’ to her at times, and I’ve just been very proud to see her grow as a broadcaster, a friend and as a mother.”

Tom Leach, the radio voice of the Kentucky Wildcats, has been a Perino fan, too.

“Coaches always want energy from their players and that’s what Mary Jo has always brought to the UK sports scene, plus that wonderful smile. Hope we’ll see her in the crowd even though we won’t see her on press row,” Leach said.

WLAP Sunday Morning Sports host Mark Buerger has a different type best memory of Perino.

“I’ve been at my real job at Special Olympics for 11 State Summer Games events. Mary Jo has emceed the Opening Ceremonies at four of them. Every time I have asked, Mary Jo has made the trek to Richmond immediately after getting off the air to be a part of the event (which starts at 7 p.m. every year),” Buerger said.  “She made it when they were doing construction on the Clays Ferry Bridge. She made it the day Jon Cohen announced he was leaving Kentucky for Mississippi State. And she made it the year I tried to give her a year off, but I had a late cancellation and called her a couple of days before the event.

“And every time she was there she took those Ceremonies just as seriously as she did a broadcast, was an absolute pro and was a big part of producing a great event for the more than 1,300 Special Olympics athletes who compete at the Games every year. We’ll miss having her there!”

But it wasn’t just those who knew Perino well who loved the way she did her job and will miss her as those of use in the media will. Just ask Theresa Salyer.

“We like that she is so personable, enthusiastic and easy to look at, in other words really good looking. She is so passionate about our Cats and you can tell she loves what she is doing,” Salyer said. “She is also very fair in her reporting about UK sports. She is great at the Derby and has taken to the Bluegrass state and loves our state like a native.

“Meeting her personally at the Kentucky Ohio Convention and then having her remember who I was two years later was special.  I took our son, who is a great Mary Jo fan, to met her this year at the SEC Tournament and she was friendly and seemed to enjoy meeting any Cat fan.

“I love her smile, voice, just everything about her and she will be sorely missed by a lot of people. I would love to see her get back into the sports scene somehow or way. She has a lot of knowledge about a variety of sports and gives a fair report.”

Indeed she did and I’ll dearly miss seeing her not only at UK games, but at high school sports events. She was just as passionate about prep sports, and I loved that about her. Her smile could always brighten your day and on air she could always make you feel like she was talking directly to you. And athletes loved talking to her and it showed in the interviews she got on a regular basis. But mainly I’m going to miss seeing her in a professional capacity simply because she was such a good friend.

What about you? If you have seen her work or met her, let me know what you will remember or miss about Perino.

44 Responses to Farewell to Mary Jo Perino — and share your best memories of her

  • p90x says:

    Great article Larry – MJP will be missed.

    • Valerie Dillingham says:

      I met MJP at Big Blue Madness one year. She was always smiling, pleasant, professional, and very friendly. She is a beautiful person and show great enthusiasm in her work. MJP will be greatly missed but good luck in all you do!!!

  • Jim Boyers says:

    My favorite memory is getting to meet her at Eddie Montgomery’s during your radio show a few years ago. She is a beautiful lady and very nice as well (even though, if memory serves me correctly, she was wearing a Minnesota Vikings jersey).

    Good luck in whatever you pursue MJ.

  • Katie says:

    I interned for Mary Jo at LEX several years ago, and she is one of the best bosses I’ve ever worked under. Love me some MJP! Will miss seeing her on the air.

  • Sporty says:

    Kentucky journalism and sports entertainment is losing a great talent. Best of fortunes to you Mary Jo!

  • Robin Conley says:

    She will be greatly missed. Always loved her smile.

  • Shelia says:

    Although this news is very saddening to hear, as a parent I can truly relate to MJP wanting to spend more time with her son. I will truly miss seeing this fine lady on LEX, it will be very difficult for someone to fill her shoes!! MJP knows her stuff when it comes to sports!! She always put a smile on our face even if our TRUE BLUE BOYS fell short!!! Good luck & Best wishes to you on your new journey in life MJP!!

  • Billy Sharp says:

    I’ve enjoyed watching Marry Jo these past years fill me in on the latest about the cats. Nothing like an informative sports analysist with a perfect smile. I ask her friendship on
    Facebook and made the comment how I knew she was from Minnesota and I had been a
    Vikings fan since the Tarkenton days when I was a kid…She repied I had the same name as her brother-in-law…and befriended me…Kentucky will always love and be here for you Mary Jo..I don’t know what your plans are for sure…if your leaving the state or what…but know that you are loved here and we look upon you as a daughter of Kentucky, a neighbor, and highly regarded sports information expert. Maybe when your son is a teen…and just doesn’t need his Mom around that much anymore, you can come back and pick up where you left off…We will be waiting for you….Peace and blessings….

  • Bob Johnson says:

    What will I miss? That SMILE!!! One in a million… and I bought it hook, line, and sinker every time.

  • Connie says:

    MJP will always be apart of the Big Blue Nation family!!

  • Chad says:

    Great sports caster hope 18 will let her come back for special events (derby) if she wishes too.

  • Frank Crabtree Sr says:

    The word enthusiasm comes from the Greek word “entheos” which means having God within. Mary Jo, brings “entheos” to each broadcast. One can see the “God within” in her face, eyes, smile, and hear it in her voice. We as viewers, have been blessed to get to know her on WLEX-TV. She is an original and I have come to the conclusion that God must have spent a little more time on her. (Thank you…N ‘Sync) More than that….she is knowledgeable and a consummate professional. I think she should be declared a national treasure and at the very least…..a Kentucky State Treasure. Thank you, Mary Jo, for being “Our Girl” and bringing us “sunshine on every cloudy day”.

  • Betty Pace says:

    She did it her way. Good bye, Mary Jo

  • Jim and Mary Porter says:

    Thanks, Larry, and all the others for the outstanding tribute/comments about the personable Mary Jo Perino. When you and Ryan Lemond recommended Mary Jo as a
    participant for Ohio’s UK Convention, I knew little about her. But after my Mary and I met
    with Mary Jo and after her participation in our Convention, I know a lot about this awesome lady. First and foremost, she loves her son. Giving up her tv position to spend
    more time with him is living proof. Secondly, not only is Mary Jo a beautiful lady, but
    she is more beautiful inside: one you would like to claim as a relative or have as a neighbor. Best wishes and God bless!

  • BUFORD MATTINGLY says:

    M.J.P. AND CUTLER ARE BY FAR THE VERY BEST SPORTS PEOPLE AROUND. YOU WILL SURE BE MISSED. I WISH YOUTHE BEST AND MAY GOD RICHLY BLESS YOU….FROM CLAY CITY, KY. P.S. SURE HOPE YOU KEEP ON FACE BOOK AND KEEP US UP TO DATE.

  • Nikki says:

    MJP will be missed in SO many ways. She is more than a coworker to me, she’s an amazing friend…and a mentor. I am so lucky to have sat next to her for the past couple of years and I simply cannot say enough good things about her. LEX18 was so lucky to have her…and I’m blessed to call her a friend. :)

  • Pete Coyle says:

    She didn’t get to come to the Boyle County football games in the past few years but when she did it was always a treat to have her and her cameramen at out tailgate tent to spend some time with the Perryville Baptist Church Group. She was always a lady and the men with her were always so personable. What a great loss to the spots nation in the Lexington area. Thanks for being you, best wishes and God Bless your new endeavors in life.

  • Todd Takei says:

    I’ve already expressed to her how much she’s been enjoyed and how much she will be missed, but I’ll say it here again. Wish you all the best, MJP.

  • michael logan says:

    Your smile M.J ….You always look so happy…..Will miss you
    Take care

  • Mary Jo Perino says:

    Thank you Larry for the wonderful article… and for Cutler, Ryan, Tom, Mark and Teresa for being a part of it. I have been completely overwhelmed by all the love and support. It’s part of the reason it’s so bittersweet for me to move on. I have loved every single minute of it and will forever be a part of BBN. Thank you so much!

  • Linda says:

    Good luck….will miss your sunshine…..enjoy your family

  • Anonymous says:

    Think you Larry for the great story i was so lucky to get to know her because of LGL and the Sunday Mrn talk show on 590 ….. She always let me say what i wanted to i really am thankful for that.She is TrueBlue in the hearts of #BBN forever!

  • bruce pyle says:

    This is an awsome story on MJP…So happy for her and Sam..i was so lucky to get to know her because of LGL and the Sunday Mrn Show on 590…we had good times for sure talking UK Sports.She is TrueBlue in the hearts of #BBN forever.

  • Sonya Morris says:

    Loved, loved, loved MJP’s enthusiasm about Kentucky basketball!! Sure gonna miss her smiling face!

  • Randy Scholtz says:

    Mary Jo was a true professional. a true Big Blue fan and someone who had passion for sports in central Kentucky. Her smile made all around her feel better….even after a loss. I saw her on several occasions at Boyle County football games. She was always friendly and patient…fans can be difficult at times. God Bless Mary Jo and Sam!!

  • Charles Ritchie says:

    Met her in Meridian Miss., on the ride home after the National Championship game, last year! Told Cutler she was a ” Smiling Son of a Gun”!!! To which I got a ” Big Smile”!, greatest personality in the business!!!

  • JoAnn Venier says:

    I’m at a loss of words for all the great comments regarding my sister, my best friend. She truly has loved every minute of being a sportscaster in Lexington and I couldn’t be more proud of her. The thoughtful words everyone has said about her are very touching because I’m so happy that so many people got to experience such a wonderful woman. She is a great mother and I’m so excited for her new adventures and that she has the support of so many people in Kentucky. You did it kid! Love you to pieces! Hopefully the new change will allow us to see Sam more as well! Thank you Lexington for supporting MJP.

  • Chris says:

    I’ve always loved watching lex news. Mary Jo was a wonderful addition. When the sportscasts came on is when I got up to get something from the kitchen. After Mary Jo came on I never got up again. She really made the cast exciting and fun to watch. Your smile will truly be missed.

  • Juan4UK says:

    I live in FL. So, I didn’t see her broadcasts unless it was a clip or something. So, I see her on twitter, or thru KSR, or VV. What I like about her? Approachable. While professional, she is a fan. And she shows it. She gives her opinion and is able to do it in a way that doesn’t go over a professional line, but leaves no doubt that for the most part, she see’s things the way most fans do.
    And, she’s a proud mother to wrap it all up in a neat little package.
    Good for her, and I hope she gets a financial opportunity to raise her son and still get to be part of the #BBN by attending w him at games and such.

  • MJP you will be missed greatly. It was great to always see your smiling face. Hope you have an awesome time pursuing your other oppurtunities and enjoying your son they grow up so fast. Lots of love to you. Hope you won’t be a stranger.

  • Steve Lewis says:

    First, Mary Jo, did you notice that no one said anything bad about you on here? I live in Florida now and went to EKU and had a very small interest in UK until I began watching you on WLEX 18. All of the things I am thinking have been said here BUT I want you to know that because of your incredible character, enthusiasm, and love for the BBN, I am a life-long fan of UK and I just want to thank you and wish you God’s best for yours and Sam’s life! You are the best!!

    • larryvaught says:

      Beth and Steve, what great comments. Know Mary Jo appreciates them as does her sister who left a lovely comment here as well

  • Beth says:

    MJ I will miss seeing your face on the sports everynight. I know you will be missed by alot of people. I wish the Best for you and your son. If you are ever in the area if moving out of KY, you will have to drop by Lex18 and say hello to all your fans of sports. Again I wish you and your son the Best, but will be truely missed by all.

  • jeff says:

    MJP bleeds Blue and will be sadly missed, I shall miss that lovely smile every nite. I wish the best for her and her son and may God bless you both. Kentucky should be grateful to have such a loyal fan and broadcaster the likes we will never see again at LEX18.

  • john and sandy perino says:

    As parents of MJP we knew when she was very young that she wanted to be on tv. Sports came later but was a perfect fit for her. We are so proud of her many accomplishments! Many of those involved television but family life means much also. Even though she a native of Minnesota she has become a BBN member which we know will continue. WLEX and MJP have been very good for each other. We are proud of all comments posted here about our daughter. We are wishing Sam and her an exciting futurep

    • larryvaught says:

      John and Sandy Perino, we love your daughter at vaughtsviews.com. She is a true gem. Thanks for taking the time to post here

      • Viper says:

        Larry, do you know what MJ’s future endeavors might be and if she is staying in the Lexington area? I’m sure the BBN would love to support her in her new business or career if we know what that is.

  • Viper says:

    In the era of so many stations putting on the obligatory “female reporter” on every sideline in America whether they have any business there or not, MJP is the best example I know of actually having the knowledge, talent and love of sports to be there. (Now before I get blasted let me just say, for the record, that I believe the best basketball color comentator on television right now is Kara Lawson. She knows the game, explains it succinctly and knows when to shut up. That is another example of one who has earned it). Mary Jo is a class act and is unfailingly nice to everyone. It is rare that I find anyone I feel cheated if I miss their segment on the news. MJP is a BBN treasure and we will miss her deperately!

  • BOB REYNOLDS says:

    my FAVORITE words t 11:21 weeknights, ALWAYS accompanied by that CLASSIC smile: ” STAY WITH US, WE’LL BE RIGHT BACK!”

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