Ernest DeSoto, who has been the Houston Airport System's public voice since 2000 and previously worked as a television producer and editor, died of liver cancer Sunday at his home. He was 50.
DeSoto, whose title was senior executive in charge of media affairs, was diagnosed with the illness in May, said his wife, Cynthia. He had worked half-days since July and continued to show up in the office until a few weeks before his death, said current airport spokesman Roger Smith.
"Ernie will be sorely missed," said his boss, Richard Vacar, Houston aviation director. "He was a consummate communication professional, well-known and admired by his peers and the media community."
"He was just a great guy," said Don Kobos, assistant news director at KTRK-Channel 13, where DeSoto was an assignments editor in the 1980s and assignments manager in the early 1990s. "He had a lot of friends here. He was part of our family."
Born and reared in San Antonio, DeSoto was an air traffic controller in the Air Force for four years, then earned a bachelor's degree in mass communication and political science at Trinity University and an associate of arts degree in radio-television-film at San Antonio College.
His first job was with radio station WOAI in San Antonio. His career also took him to WPVI-TV in Philadelphia in the late 1980s.
There he won an Emmy nomination and the Atlantic City Press Club Golden Video award, both in 1990.
Before joining the airport system, DeSoto was spokesman for the Houston Solid Waste Management Department during 1998-2000.
Along with his wife, DeSoto also leaves a daughter, Christine, 15; son, Dustin, 13; and mother, Josephine Park, of San Antonio.
Services are scheduled for 4 p.m. Thursday at The Foundry United Methodist Church, 8350 Jones Road, under the direction of Cypress-Fairbanks Funeral Home. His wife suggests gifts be made to Houston Hospice, 5206 FM 1960 West.