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Toledo media figure Joe Rychnovsky dies at 49

07/20/2017, 9:36pm EDT

Sportscaster battled rare and aggressive form of cancer

Sportscaster Joe Rychnovsky covers the 4th and Goal Bowl at The University of Toledo in 2016. He passed away at his home Thursday from a rare form of cancer at the age of 49. THE BLADE

Joe Rychnovsky, one of the most popular media figures in the Toledo market, passed away Thursday at his home. Rychnovsky was 49 and had been battling a rare and aggressive cancer.

The Missouri native was small in stature but was known throughout the community for his big heart and the way he passionately immersed himself in the stories he covered. He had a very unique, folksy and occasionally self-deprecating style, something that endeared him to his audience and the people he met along the way.

“Nobody did it the way he did it,” said Tom Cole, who worked with Rychnovsky at BCSN. “And because Joe had fun and he made it fun for everyone, what sometimes got lost was the fact that he was an incredibly talented broadcaster. And he was so liked and respected in the community — people loved the guy.”

VIDEO: Joe Rychnovsky on BCSN in January, 2017

Rychnovsky worked in markets in Missouri, Wisconsin, Florida, and Nebraska before coming to Ohio about 15 years ago. His “Hey Joe, Try This!” segments on WTOL-Channel 11 debuted in 2001, and were an instant hit with viewers.

Rychnovsky took on numerous zany and bizarre challenges with “Hey Joe,” and always made it excessively entertaining while shining the spotlight on the story subject. He played goalie while hockey players rifled slap shots at him, he shot an arrow at a target while riding a horse, and challenged a middle school champion to a free throw shooting contest, knowing the result would be humbling.

RELATED: Rychnovsky fights cancer challenge (from November, 2016)

“That was the essence of Joe — poke a little fun at himself while highlighting the talents of someone locally,” Cole said. “This is an ego business, and Joe did everything without a trace of ego.”

Rychnovsky was born with polycystic kidney disease and spent the first few month of his life in the hospital. The disease progressed and when he was a freshman at the University of Missouri, pursuing his dream of becoming a sportscaster, his kidneys shut down. After nine months on dialysis, Rychnovsky received a kidney transplant that saved his life.

When cancer struck, Rychnovsky was very pragmatic about what might lie ahead.

“I’m a Catholic and I’m a firm believer that you have a start date and an expiration date,” he said late last fall. “And when God calls you home, He calls you home. Maybe this is just a sign from God saying ‘I’m calling you home soon.’ If that’s the case, it’s out of my hands.”

BCSN will honor Rychnovsky on Friday, celebrating his life with a tribute video.

“He went through an awful lot of health issues, but you never once heard Joe complain,” Cole said. “He never felt sorry for himself through it all and it was never about him. He fought it, and he wanted to show people that was the right thing to do.”

Many in the Toledo sports world and beyond sent condolences through social media.

Contact Blade outdoors editor Matt Markey at or 419-724-6068.

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Sports anchor Joe Rychnovsky passed away today after battling a rare and aggressive cancer. THE BLADE

Sportscasters Ed Bellner, left, and Joe Rychnovsky cover the 4th and Goal Bowl at The University of Toledo in November of 2016. THE BLADE

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