Dignified Pet Services presents 'People in the Neighborhood'
Upon meeting Val Steele it’s immediately apparent she was a cheerleader in high school. "I wasn't a back-handspring kind of person at all," laughs the energetic and (currently) redheaded KDUK afternoon radio personality. "But my coaches always said I was the best cheerleader because of my positive attitude."
Lucky for her listeners, this fountain of positivity found her home in Oregon. Given her nomadic childhood, it could’ve easily been elsewhere. "I was born in upstate New York to a single mom who had a little bit of wanderlust," she says. "We moved a lot growing up."
No kidding. In addition to New York, Val's family — which includes a younger brother and sister — lived at various times in California, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Montana, and Alaska. That kind of gypsy lifestyle didn't allow for many pets, but Val says she always loved animals, especially horses.
"We were living in Saratoga Springs, horse country," she remembers. "I got a Shetland pony for my 5th birthday, even took riding lessons." The pony stayed behind when her family moved, but Val is still an equestrian at heart. "If we had stayed on the east coast I would have totally been a horse girl," she says.
While Val credits being extroverted and resilient to her upbringing, she does admit to wanting something different for her own family.
"Roots are really important for me," she says.
Which is why her wandering ended in 1989, when Val moved to Eugene to attend University of Oregon. She earned a degree in communications, and has been here ever since — surprising, given the itinerant nature of radio.
"I feel I got lucky because I was able to find a job doing what my degree was actually for very quickly," she says.
A few years later Val met her husband, Greg, and his close-knit, Eugene-based family helped her begin building the life she always wanted.
"This past January was my 21st year at KDUK," she marvels. "I've been here so long people have grown up listening to me."
Val attributes that longevity in the notoriously insecure broadcasting industry to being in a smaller city. Unlike many larger markets, Eugene gave her the freedom to connect with her audience over time.
"I get to go with my gut and just be a personal friend to the listener," she explains.
When not busy being that friend on the airwaves (and programming the station as well), Val says most of her downtime revolves around family — especially her 8-year-old son, Dominic.
"At this age, their life really becomes your life," she says. "There's sports, extracurricular activities, and we're making a new group of friends with the parents of his friends."
She does manage to carve out time to exercise. Val gets up to run at 5:30 daily — occasionally accompanied by her nearly 12-year-old Beagle, Joey (short for Josephina Corina) who still keeps pace on a 5-mile stretch.
"I love running with her," says Val. "That tail! They put their nose to the ground and do that hunting dog thing where they yip. It's fun to see that instinctual stuff they do."
Val’s devotion to road work — with and without her Beagle companion — will soon help her check something off her bucket list.
"This year I'm running the Hood to Coast!" she exclaims.
On the few occasions Val does sit still to watch TV, she's given to binge-watching favorite shows on her iPad.
"I can't wait to see the new House of Cards," she says. "Love it."
She's also a fan of Game of Thrones and actually made a point of visiting one of the show's more famous set locations in Croatia during a trip to Europe last year. "Kings Landing isn't a set," she says. "It's actually an ancient walled city!" Her irresistible enthusiasm bubbles over, as it does anytime Val talks about travel.
"I want to go to Ireland, Istanbul, Budapest," she rattles off. "I'm really kind of history geek."
Val's preferred shoe is anything but geeky. "A pair of Tom's high-heeled mules," she says, is truly ‘her.’
"You can wear them with a dress, you can wear them with jeans, you can wear them with leggings. If I have to run in them, I can . . . and look good doing it!"
Val is equally fond of a pair of cowboy boots that are Oregon Duck green from ankle to knee.
Because once a cheerleader...always a cheerleader.
About our Sponsor
Dignified Pet Services has served the Portland-area community for 13 years. In addition to their core business of cremation and memorial services, Dignified co-sponsors the beloved annual Service of Remembrance at The Old Church in downtown Portland, as well as serving as wonderful supporters and friends of pets and those working in animal welfare. Proprietors Michael, Randy and Avani live in Sherwood.
Michele Coppola is a veteran Portland radio personality and copywriter for Entercom Radio as well as the new Managing Editor for Spot Magazine. She shares a home and couch space with her three rescue pooches Lucy, Bailey, and Ginny--as well as Bryon, the stray man she married six years ago.