`Highway Helper' Charlie Fiano dies of cancer
Seattle Times staff reporter
He was best known as KIRO-AM radio's "Auto Angel" and in recent years the "Chevron 710 KIRO Highway Helper."
Folks who didn't know Charlie Fiano by name knew him by deed.
For nearly two decades, he cruised freeways from Everett to Tacoma, looking for stranded motorists. And when he spotted them, he would pull up in his white-panel van and offer to help.
Then, at least a couple times a day, he'd report his good deeds and any traffic jams he'd run across over KIRO radio programs.
Mr. Fiano, who drove KIRO's rescue van for 18 years - the first half sponsored by the local Hinshaw's Honda dealership and in later years, Chevron - died Saturday (June 10) in a Tacoma hospital after battling cancer of the lungs and brain. He was 49.
"I would guess he helped thousands of people. It's easy to say he helped at least four or five people a day," said KIRO radio reporter Tim Haeck.
While Mr. Fiano's was not the only radio-affiliated rescue van on the roads, he quite likely had worked at the job consistently longer than anyone else in the business, Haeck said.
"He'd drive the freeways during morning and afternoon commutes, and if he saw somebody who was having trouble by the side of the road, he'd pull over and help them.
"He would always admonish listeners to make sure they checked their oil, checked their antifreeze and do those basic things."
Mr. Fiano's wife, Joan, said he had logged over 700,000 miles on the road, "and he had worn out two vans and was into his third at this point."
Until several weeks ago, he had been on the road in his van with its recognizable yellow and red Chevron stripes and 710 KIRO logo, and a light bar on top.
Born in Hoboken, N.J., Mr. Fiano served two years in the Navy and four years in the Naval Reserves before moving to the Northwest in 1975.
His first job here was as a diesel mechanic for Crowley Maritime, then he moved into auto repair. When KIRO and Hinshaw's Honda teamed up for the Auto Angel, Mr. Fiano was enlisted.
"He stayed ever since, and he loved every minute of it," said his wife.
Also surviving are his daughter, Gabrielle, 9; his mother, Lillian; and sister, Michele Fiano, all of the Gig Harbor area.
A memorial service is set for 2 p.m. tomorrow at Chapel Hill Presbyterian Church, 7700 Skansie Ave., Gig Harbor. A viewing is scheduled from 5 to 8 p.m. today at Haven of Rest in Gig Harbor, 8503 Highway 16 W.
Charles E. Brown's phone message number is 206-464-2206. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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