Bob Bodden passed away last week. He was 91 years young. Everybody in the Platteville area knew Bob, and generations of Wisconsin broadcasters all over the state knew, liked, and respected Bob. He started his career in Wisconsin radio back in 1941 as a student at Marquette, and over the next six decades touched the lives of countless people. They don’t make ‘em like Bob Bodden any more.
Bob was elected to the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association Hall of Fame in 1991, and I have no doubt that no matter which profession Bob chose, he would have been in that profession’s hall of fame. Bob still gave regular commentaries on one of the stations he founded, WSWW in Platteville, until he passed. And he had something of substance to say every time he turned on the microphone.
In addition to his many leadership positions in the Broadcast industry in Wisconsin, Bob was deeply involved in his community, leading several civic organizations in Platteville and as a member of the Grant County board.
But I always regarded Bob as the consummate radio news man.
When I was a still-wet-behind-the-ears fledgling radio announcer, news was usually gathered two ways. One was the staff member – the “News Director” - who went out and covered local events and wrote up stories about it; the other was via the Associated Press teletype. Back in the 60’s, if you gave a tour of the radio station to a friend, the thing that fascinated them the most was the AP teletype.
Here was this glorified typewriter, about three feet tall, with a huge roll of paper feeding into it, and it just sat there and typed line after line of news copy. Visitors would stand transfixed in front of it, reading the news copy from all over the world as it was spewing out, fascinated. Three or four times a day there’d be a “state split” on the wire, when the AP would send about a dozen Wisconsin stories.
Since the AP is essentially a big co-op, member stations would contribute stories. It seemed every time there was a “state split”, there’d be a story from southwest Wisconsin, and, as is still the practice today, after the story there’d be a credit line, like “Thanks to Bob Bodden, WSWW.”
All I knew was that this Bodden guy really had a handle on anything that was happening in southwest Wisconsin. His contributions were all over the AP wire. Eventually, as I advanced in my career, I finally met Bob at an Associated Press meeting in Milwaukee. We had a brief chat about radio news, which I’m sure Bob would never have remembered, but to me, it was a brush with fame. This guy was an icon!
If you applied for a broadcast news job in Wisconsin and had WSWW on your resume, you got hired. Bob Bodden trained and developed countless news people, and if you worked for Bob, it was like getting a PhD in local news. Whether you’re covering news in Potosi or Pittsburgh, the principles are the same. And Bob Bodden was truly a man of principle.
Bob Bodden: father of 10 children, 33 grandchildren, and 39 great-grandchildren; and mentor to thousands and thousands of Wisconsin broadcasters.
If there’s news happening in heaven, Bob knows about it, and has filed a story on it.