Jim Axel, a voice from TV’s ‘era of quality,’ fighting cancer
Jim Axel spent 34 years sporting a red tie and delivering the news on WAGA-TV.
Then he retired and moved to Venice, Fla., in 1998 after his wife, Millie, said she liked the area so much during a visit the year before.
Retiring from the broadcast news business was fine by Axel, who said he got started during the “era of quality” before it started morphing in the 1970s to “info-tainment.”
“You built your ethics based on these people [in broadcast news]. And, over the years, you saw those ethics erode,” Axel said in a telephone conversation from his home in Venice, just south of Sarasota.
For a while, Axel said, he did “what most people do when they retire.” He played golf and joined a bowling league.
Then he found eBay and started selling coins — the American Silver Eagle coins that the United States began minting in 1986 — taking advantage of what he said was a decent market.
That was his focus until his 71st birthday three years ago, Axel said. He went to the doctor that day after being sick during a summer trip to his cottage in Seven Devil Hills, N.C., and found out he had lung cancer.
He’s been through a round of chemotherapy and has had his right lung and half of his stomach removed.
“I’m slowly losing parts,” said Axel, who was not shy in talking about his illness.
“Cancer doesn’t leave you. One time, you’re clear, and the next time, you find it’s gone down to the liver or the stomach.”
He’s aware of the prognosis — one to three months if things don’t change. Additional surgeries are not an option, his doctor said.
But that was one month ago, Axel said.
“I’m going to prove him wrong,” he said.
Besides, he’s looking forward to celebrating 54 years of marriage with his wife on Dec. 28.
He doesn’t keep close contact with former WAGA-TV co-workers, but one made the eight-hour drive from Atlanta to visit him last weekend
Axel started there on a Tuesday in 1962. His first newscast was four days later. He spent the previous 2 1/2 years doing nightly newscasts for WSB radio.
The transition to television was nothing, he said.
“It’s like doing newscasts and having a camera watching,” Axel said. “They always told me I was a natural for it anyhow. I was a born ham.”
Axel said there were no monumental nights, but he recalled traveling to Iran with other media, following Jimmy Carter when he met the American hostages held captive for 444 days. And he remembers being there when President Carter left office and Ronald Reagan came in.
“I was being paid for a job that I loved,” Axel said.