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Leo del Aguila retires from NPR after 46 years


Many years ago, NPR sent Leo del Aguila and me to cover the civil war in El Salvador. Leo was our engineer. I was our reporter. By the time we came back, we considered ourselves brothers. We still do. He's the funniest and most original character I know.

Leo and I have been in tough spots together - covering battles, sniper fire, riots and killing fields in Central America, the Balkans and the Middle East, as well as a story in the Beverly Hills swimming pool of a movie star. But it's hard to tell you the punchlines in most of Leo's stories. I'll never forget the time we interviewed a cardinal and Leo said, or we were shot at and Leo said, or we were turning up landmines and Leo said something I can't repeat but was wickedly funny and made us laugh, as we needed to in a difficult moment. Leo can still make me laugh just by raising an eyebrow.

This is Leo's last week with NPR. He's now in our Culver City studios. He's been creative and meticulous in his work and will go on to make many people laugh as he travels in retirement.

Leo and I always found it a challenge to report from conflicts, but we met so many extraordinary people - brave, generous and kind - under the most daunting circumstances. And I noticed, place after place, when it came time to bid goodbye, so many people we had grown to admire and cherish would sob to say farewell to Leo. His outrageous wit and warm heart helped them laugh through losses, loneliness, life and death. They considered it a blessing that all their trials and sorrow had somehow delivered a sparkling Leo del Aguila into their lives. That's how I feel, too. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.
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