Big 11 Alive alumni reunion fetes departing staff including Keith Whitney, Donna Lowry, Kevin Rowson

Donna Lowery and Keith Whitney at TavernPointe Friday, April 29, 2016 for a big 11 Alive retirement party. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/

Donna Lowery and Keith Whitney at TavernPointe Friday, April 29, 2016 for a big 11 Alive retirement party. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/

By RODNEY HO/, originally filed Sunday, May 1, 2016

11 Alive employees past and present showed up Friday evening to fete 15 departing WXIA-TV employees who took a recent early retirement package.

At Tavernpointe, a stone’s throw from 11 Alive’s old headquarters in Midtown, 11 Alive reporter Doug Richards gathered what former reporter Paul Crawley dubbed the largest gathering of 11 Alive alum in his memory. Some traveled in from out of state to be there. Collectively, the news experience in that restaurant spanned more than 1,000 years.

Among those who came by: 11 Alive anchors Brenda Wood and Valerie Hoff; current reporters Matt Pearl, Jennifer Leslie, Jaye Watson, Jerry Carnes and Bill Liss; meteorologist Chesley McNeil, former sports anchors Fred Kalil and Randy Waters, retired anchor John Pruitt, beloved former meteorologist Johnny Beckman, chopper/reporter veteran Bruce Erion, former news director and current CBS Atlanta GM Mark Pimental, former community specialist Evelyn Mims, former sports anchor Joe Washington and former reporter Kay Flowers.

Keith Whitney, who came to the station 23 years ago and took the retirement package, said he was initially reluctant to show up, saying he was not a big fan of parties. But ultimately, he said had a good time because so many old-timers came by. At age 55, he just made the cut for the early retirement package and plans to find another job.

Donna Lowry, who looks like she’s in her 30s but is actually in her 50s, had been at 11 Alive as an education reporter for a whopping three decades. She took the buyout as well. She said she had a tough time the last week, the sentimentality washing over her. “It’s an amazing journey to be in this business at the same place for 30 years,” she said. During that final week, “I cried again and again. It was waterworks! It’s bittersweet.”

She plans to do media consulting and possibly go into teaching.

Kevin Rowson, 62, who joined 11 Alive in 1994, said he has post-11 Alive plans but can’t reveal them just yet. He said he is deeply grateful for how the station treated him. “They allowed me to do what I love, which is tell stories,” Rowson said. “I especially enjoyed crime stories. They appreciated that and supported me.”


Bill Liss, veteran 11 Alive reporter, chose not to take the buyout. He joins John Pruitt, who spent 12 years at 11 Alive before closing out his career at Channel 2 Action News. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/


Kevin Rowson, who took the buyout, with 11Alive veteran anchor Brenda Wood. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/


Former 11 Alive broadcaster Kay Flowers (1988-2007), Creaxion president and CBS Atlanta contributor Mark Pettit (1988-1991) and existing on-air anchor/reporter Valerie Hoff. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/


Bruce Erion, the chopper pilot and reporter from 1982 to 1999 at 11 Alive, with meteorologist Johnny Beckman (1982-1994). CREDIT: Rodney Ho/


11Alive reporters Matt Pearl and Jerry Carnes with departing Donna Lowry. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/


Paul Crawley, who retired in 2014 after 36 years at 11 Alive, with Eric Ludgood, who is now assistant news director at Fox 5 but worked at 11 Alive years ago. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/


Jez De Wolff, consumer marketing manager at Cox Automoative who used to work at Adult Swim, and her husband and intrepid 11 Alive reporter Doug Richards, the organizer of the party. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/


Fred Kalil, who worked at 11 Alive for nearly 23 years and is now a sports anchor at CBS Atlanta, with his sports predecessor at 11 Alive Joe Washington. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/

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