JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — Through a radio and television career in the Tri-Cities that spanned decades, Tim Cable became a household name.
But one person can say the man known by thousands was the man she knew and loved best.
“His heart was just huge,” said Christinia Cable, Tim’s wife of 23 years. “The amount of love he could give to us and to his kids and his family and friends and people he worked with. When you met him – that was it. It was instantaneous.”
Tim died Sunday, one day after his and Christinia’s wedding anniversary. He’d been hospitalized for weeks after contracting COVID-19 in early August.
“He told me a long time ago that when his time was up, he was ready,” Christinia said. “He said, ‘Jesus you can come back anytime. I’m ready to go.'”
The memory triggered a beaming smile – a break from the tears triggered by a romance that began after she changed careers to pursue an interest in television.
Tim and Christinia met at WJHL-TV when she worked as a studio camera operator in the station’s production department and when Tim was the co-anchor of the morning news.
‘It just clicked,” she said, beaming. “He became my best friend then and there.”
“He always told me, ‘You’re the only person who looks at me the way you do.’ I’m so glad he saw how much I loved and admired him.”
Throughout his career, when it comes to local media, Tim quite literally did it all. A job in local radio led to a production job at WJHL-TV. Soon, news reporting placed him in front of the camera and then onto the anchor desk where he handled news, weather, and sports. Tim wrote a local newspaper column, and in recent years he was the morning radio co-host and sports play-by-play broadcaster on WJCW radio.
If he ever was pushed to fit into a mold for what a broadcaster was “supposed to” do or be, Tim flatly rejected it. Never one to take himself seriously, he chose moments during every broadcast to sling out a pun or interject a funny aside. Never scripted, playing it by ear.
“He was always laughing at himself,” his wife said, full of pride.
Through it all, he helped a lot of co-hosts shine, he met a lot of famous people, and he did a lot of cool things. Christinia said his favorite assignment of all time came when he was chosen to fly with The Thunderbirds, the elite air demonstration squadron of the United States Air Force.
“That meant the world to him,” she said. “He was so honored.”
But what meant the world to so many local television viewers was Cable Country, Tim’s down-home and often hilarious reports on WJHL-TV news about the everyday characters who made him smile.
“He had a gift, not just for the written word,” Christinia said. “He had a gift with people. He could read them and he knew what he needed to say. And that was a gift from God.”
Switching between laughter and tears, she remembered what led to the creation of Cable Country. She said it was Tim’s way of dealing with devastation – the death of his 7-year-old son in 1990.
“Tim knew he couldn’t jump back into the bad news right away,” Christinia said. “So they started Cable Country. And they used it as a ministry to be able to talk to people and others who had lost children.”
Viewers didn’t know it, but Tim’s franchise of fascinating and funny stories – thousands of them over many years – was a story of a grieving father healing.
“There’s a lot of bad news in the world. And he wanted to bring the good,” she said. “He wanted people to see that life is hard enough, so let’s not take it so seriously. Let’s enjoy life. Let’s enjoy the people around us. And let’s love one another.”
Tim underwent surgery earlier in 2021. Christinia said he followed advice and held off on the COVID-19 vaccine. And then after healing up and as COVID numbers dropped, they got busy with travel, one of the many things they enjoyed together. On a trip in early August, Tim got sick. Christinia said symptoms at first seemed like normal allergies. Then his condition rapidly worsened.
“I saw firsthand what it (COVID-19) can do and what it did to the person I love most in the world,” she said. “And I don’t want anybody to have to watch their loved ones go through it. It’s not pretty.”
Christinia said she’s not preaching, just asking for people to take action.
“It’s heartbreaking,” she said. “Protect yourself as best you can. And he did say, he regretted not getting the vaccine.”
After spending the day of their anniversary by his hospital bed, Christinia said a nurse came into the room and informed her that the end was near. Tim died with his wife and three children by his side.
“It was just an honor,” she said. “It was an honor to be married to him. And it was an honor to be there and hold his hand until he left this world….until we see him again.”