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Andy Barrie celebrates his birthday and announces his retirement on Metro Morning. ((Dwight Friesen/CBC))

Andy Barrie, the widely respected host of Toronto's CBC Radio One program Metro Morning, has announced he's stepping down from the top-rated show.

With his deep baritone voice and incisive questioning, Barrie will continue his hosting duties until March 1.

The 65-year-old broadcaster, who revealed in 2007 that he had been diagnosed with the degenerative disorder Parkinson's disease, made his announcement at the end of his show Monday.

Barrie said that when the show moved to a new start time of 5:30 a.m., he found it especially difficult to adjust.

"All I know was that body was getting a very loud wake-up call of its own, and the call said: 'Fifteen years is more than anybody's held this job. A guy's got just so much stamina. You have been there and done that, and it's time to do something new,'" said the host. 

"If we go back to my student radio days hosting something called The Suppertime Show in university, I've been doing daily radio now for 45 of my 65 years. Forty-five years of me doing the talking and you doing the listening. Well, it's that part of the conversation where it's time to say, well, enough about me."

"We're sad to see Andy give up the morning show microphone, and we're sure that's a view shared by his loyal audience," stated Denise Donlon, executive director of CBC Radio.

"We celebrate his legacy and honour the immense contribution he has made to CBC, to the broadcasting industry and to this city and community during his esteemed career."

Managers at the Toronto station say they'll announce a new host for the show later this month.

Susan Marjetti, managing director of CBC Toronto, expressed her sadness at the veteran announcer's departure, noting that the workers at Metro Morning are like an "extended family."

"He will continue to be part of that family and certainly part of this station's rich history," said Marjetti.

Born in Baltimore, Barrie can trace the beginnings of his broadcast career to age nine, when he was assigned to wake up campers every morning over the public address system at summer camp. After university, he snagged radio jobs in various cities as an announcer and reporter before getting his own program with Metromedia Radio in Washington.

In 1969, Barrie made a decision that set his life's path, leaving the United States during the Vietnam War and coming to Canada.

Jumped to CBC in 1995

He landed in Montreal and was hired by CJAD radio. In 1977, he moved to Toronto to take on a new job at CFRB, where his commentaries garnered him an ACTRA Award. The Andy Barrie Show was the highest-rated program in its time slot for many years.

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Andy Barrie got his start as a morning wake-up announcer in summer camp. ((Courtesy Andy Barrie))

Barrie made the leap to public broadcasting in 1995. His presence boosted ratings on the CBC show and Metro Morning now attracts more than a quarter of a million listeners every day.

Barrie's personal life hit the headlines twice, when he divulged his Parkinson's and when his wife of 39 years passed away in 2009.

Barrie indicated he might turn up at the CBC once in a while.

"As far as CBC is concerned, the adoption papers were signed long ago. I'm family. So I'll be here at the Broadcasting Centre trying to do less talking and more listening, sticking my nose into all kinds of interesting projects, and turning my ears to Metro Morning from the comfort of home.

"Again, this is for me, good news. This is my idea," Barrie said to his listeners. "This is not the end, this is just the beginning."

The show ended with a rendition of the 1939 Vera Lynn song We'll Meet Again, with the host joined by his co-workers.