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Gil Santos, Legendary Voice Of The New England Patriots, Dies At 80

BOSTON (CBS) – One of Boston's most beloved sports broadcasters has passed away. Former WBZ sports anchor Gil Santos, the legendary voice of the New England Patriots, died Thursday at age 80.

For 36 years, Gil Santos walked Patriots fans through heartbreaking losses and miraculous wins.

Santos began his Patriots broadcasting career in 1966, first as a color analyst and then as play-by-play announcer. He retired in 2013 and was inducted into the Patriots Hall of Fame.

Gil Santos
Gil Santos (Photo courtesy the New England Patriots)

During his career, he missed just one game -- a preseason contest against the Jets in 1971, which Santos missed in order to attend the funeral services for his father. In all, he called 745 Patriots games on the radio, including three Super Bowl victories.

Along with Gino Cappelletti, Santos was part of the longest-tenured broadcasting duo in modern NFL history, with the two working in tandem for 28 seasons.

WBZ-TV's Liam Martin spoke over the phone with Gil's son Mark, who says his dad loved his job as a legendary play-by-play man, but ultimately he was a family man.

"He was a great guy, Liam. A tremendous guy. He was always there for me and my mother and my sister," Mark said. "He was just a great guy. Whatever you needed. He was there."

For 38 years, Gil was beloved in the WBZ NewsRadio 1030 newsroom, known to clack away on his typewriter well into the age of computers.

Gil Santos
Gil Santos (WBZ-TV)

"He lived every day, he loved every day, he was a joy to work with and a great friend," said NightSide host Dan Rea.

"He would always be the guy who would walk in the door and say, 'are we doing this again?'" said Gary LaPierre, who worked at WBZ with Gil for more than 30 years.

Gil's love of that job was evident in his expression on his last day in 2009 and when he walked out the door and his colleagues' love for him was just as evident.

"He's going to be missed a whole lot, and there'll never be another one like him," LaPierre said.

Gil and his wife Roberta celebrated their 57th wedding anniversary on Thursday.

Patriots owner Robert Kraft said Santos will forever be known as the 'Voice of the Patriots.'

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick spoke highly of the impact Santos had in New England.

"Gil Santos' bond with anyone who ever met or heard him is timeless," said Belichick in a statement. "He will forever remain a special figure in the lives of generations of players, coaches and fans who knew him and in the lives of those who will hear his legendary voice in the future. Gil was a great friend and he will be missed. His family is in my thoughts and prayers."

Statement from Patriots Chairman and CEO Robert Kraft:

"For generations of Patriots fans, Gil Santos was and forever will be known as the 'Voice of the Patriots.' Tonight, I am deeply saddened to learn of his passing on a day that he was celebrating his 80th birthday and his 57th wedding anniversary to his wife, Roberta. Gil was a legendary broadcaster, who for 36 years passionately described the play-by-play detail of every Patriots game during his career, including many of the most memorable moments in franchise history. It was my privilege to honor Gil with his induction into the Patriots Hall of Fame in 2013. His legacy and most memorable calls will live there for future generations of Patriots fans to enjoy. On behalf of the entire Patriots organization, we extend our sincerest sympathies to Roberta, his daughter Kathleen, his son Mark and the many others who are mourning his loss."

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