Doc Roc dressed as Grand Marshal at the Millersville Parade. PHOTO COURTESY OF MILLERSVILLE UNIVERSITY
Beloved former advisor Ralph “Doc Roc” Anttonen passed away on Oct. 21, as announced through an email by university President Daniel Wubah the following Monday. The Millersville community was devastated in the wake of the 82-year-old’s death, as he remained dedicated to supporting students and staff for nearly half a century.
Appointed as Director of Educational Research in 1971, Anttonen quickly became known for his wisdom, humor, genuine kindness, and care for pupils and colleagues alike. A native of Fitchburg, Massachusetts, he was distinguishable for his Boston accent and love for the Celtics. Anttonen’s passion for sports took hold as he started DJing for the campus radio station, then known as WMSR, and announcing games in 1975, taking on the role of faculty advisor the following year.
After meeting his doting wife Judy through Millersville, the couple started their own show together, “Oldies But Goodies” in 1979, which at the time of his passing was the longest-running program on WIXQ. His love for sharing classic rock n roll music with the world earned him the nickname “Doc Roc,” with his wife affectionately referred to as “Mama Roc.”
For more than 40 years, the dynamic duo shared their love for doo-wop hits and classics from the 1950s and 60s, discussing various topics ranging from sports to local events and pop culture. Doc Roc even referred to his wife on air as “earth angel,” in reference to the popular Marvin Berry & the Starlighters track.
Doc Roc devoted much of his time to the radio station and community. Taking on the role of faculty advisor for both WIXQ and the Snapper, he became a leader and father figure to generations of students. In addition, he served as the Director of Exploratory Programs, building the school’s advisory program from the ground up. His office was painted brown and gold in tribute to the Boston Celtics, one of his favorite teams, and was known to be friendly and caring toward all of his colleagues.
Doc was also a longtime sports announcer for home field hockey, volleyball and basketball games. His involvement in the athletics programs at Millersville would lead to the Pucillo pool, the Anttonen Natatorium, being named after him and his wife.
Even after his retirement in 2013, Doc and Mama Roc remained key figures at the radio station, offering advice and wisdom to the dozens of young hopefuls who came and went. In addition to being weekly DJs and announcers, they were frequent guests in the WIXQ lounge, often eating meals together and conversing with students.
“Doc Roc would come to the station for luncheons and organize events to get to know the DJs,” says WIXQ station manager Jackie Bleich. “He made sure to leave something you’ll remember him by and he worked so hard to keep the station alive.”
Doc and Mama Roc were often responsible for organizing events, including Christmas parties, Adopt-a-Highway litter clean-ups, and gatherings at the Anttonen family home. From 1995 until around 2012, members of the radio station’s executive council would have an end-of-the-year party and take a group photo in the house’s living room. Even today, these pictures, iconic striped wallpaper and all, hang on the walls in the studio, located in the Student Memorial Center basement.
A celebration of life was held for Anttonen on Saturday, allowing friends and family to recall memories and talk about why his presence was important and cherished by the Millersville community. Hundreds attended the event in Pucillo Gymnasium, including current and former members of WIXQ, the Snapper, and varsity sports teams.
One of the individuals who spoke at the service was Shelly Behrens, field hockey coach at Millersville University.
“Doc and Mama were the ultimate team and epitome of teamwork. He always put Mama first, he wanted her to shine,” says Behrens. “He was a chauffeur, a cheerleader, a coach, and more. Doc and Mama were more than just loyal fans of Millersville athletics. Their stewardship created endowments for a number of Millersville teams, including my own. He championed the women’s programs to give girls the chances Mama never had.”
Anttonen did more than just announce the field hockey games. He would check in with the athletes, ask how they were doing, and tell them stories about his time at Millersville. Doc Roc would come to tailgating events to show support for the team. Even when they lost, Behrens said, Doc would always give words of encouragement, saying “there’s always next time, kid.”
“Their generosity and passion spirited success in so many ways and still do to this day,” Behrens continues, “Doc and Mama Roc changed my life. He said the ladies of the field hockey team were like his adopted granddaughters. They were more than fans and benefactors, they were family.”
Another person who spoke at the service was Jay Chaskes, a retired professor of Rowan University and a friend of Anttonen. The pair met through attending advisory conferences and became close travel buddies and colleagues.
“I never met anyone quite like Doc. He had an offbeat sense of humor, attached to a hearty smile and a lusty laugh,” says the Professor Emeritus. “One of the truly precious gifts of his friendships was his honesty and trustworthiness. He offered caring expertise and was always on the hearts and minds of those fortunate enough to know and receive his gifts.”
In addition to his wife of 60 years, Anttonen is survived by two children, nine grandchildren, and a great-grandson, Finn, named after Doc Roc’s Scandinavian ancestry, of which he was very proud. His family, along with the countless faculty, staff, and students whose hearts he touched, intend to carry on his legacy.