By Trent Rentsch
I can still recite it from memory…
“One man in each century is given the power to control time.
The man chosen to receive this power is carefully selected…
He must be kind,
He must be fair,
He MUST BE BRAVE!
YOU have fulfilled these requirements,
And we of the Outer Galaxies designate to you,
The Wisdom of Solomon,
And the Strength of Atlas!
YOU ARE CAPTAIN 11!!”
So began the daily adventures of my first broadcasting hero.
Dave Dedrick was literally the first voice heard on the fledgling KELO TV, back in 1953, making the move from, at that time, big sister radio station KELO AM. He began his adventure as “Space Pilot” Captain 11 in 1955, and by the time I was old enough to plant myself in front of the tube for his daily adventures of cartoons, birthday celebrations and toy chest giveaways, he had already become a living legend to thousands of children in that mythic triangle of southeastern South Dakota, northwest Iowa, and southwest Minnesota known as “KELO-Land.” His legend was equally as strong among parents when he traded his blue pilot’s uniform for a suit in the evenings, and became the region’s most trusted weatherman. When he retired from broadcasting in 1996, the Captain 11 show had become the longest continuously running children’s show in the US, and he was inducted into the South Dakota Broadcaster’s Hall of Fame in April of the following year.
When a man spends 41 years as a living super hero to children and the most trusted weather forecaster to adults, he’s bound to have countless fans. As a child of KELO-Land, I was, of course, one of them. When I was 6 or 7, I went to a friend’s birthday that was celebrated as part of the Captain’s studio audience. 20 years later, I found myself working for the same company with the Captain. I can still remember my first meeting on “severe weather 101” that Dave hosted. I was that same speechless kid who had been in his audience in the 60’s. He may have no longer seemed 10 feet tall, but the confident strength was still there; his presence commanded respect. But make no mistake, Dave took it all in stride. He was a truly nice guy, and went out of his way to make even the most star-struck feel at ease.
Two of my favorite memories of working at KELO involved Dave. Once I was doing a remote at the local zoo for some celebration, and he was appearing as the Captain. I don’t remember how it happened, but we came together, and I interviewed Captain 11 live on the air. A couple of years later, both the radio and TV stations were doing remotes at a local hot air balloon celebration, and Dave and I ended up taking a balloon ride together. I tried to play it cool. With both of us being “men of a certain weight,” I joked on the air that “’Up, in a hot air balloon with Captain 11’ is an oxymoron,” but the fact was that I was that little kid once again… thrilled to be actually soaring towards the stars with my hero.
Several weeks ago, those of the Outer Galaxies called Captain 11 home; Dave passed away at 81.
It’s been a profound month of loss. My friend, Justin Kaiser, also passed away, quite unexpectedly, a few weeks ago. It’s difficult to know where to start with Justin’s countless accomplishments in his young life. He was a gifted broadcaster, working tirelessly for WGFA radio. He was a skilled web designer, creating amazing sites for hundreds of clients. He was a “Computer Guy,” Microsoft-certified; the sort who could build a PC blind-folded. He was also the owner of Creative Identity, writing, voicing and producing audio for countless advertisers. But perhaps Justin’s greatest accomplishment was his profound ability to share his skills and knowledge with others. He always signed his emails, “Here to help,” and he meant it. Whether you needed an “Announcer 2” for your commercial, advice on why your computer was freezing up, or simply needed a shoulder, Justin was there for all his friends… and there were many of us. We were all stunned when the surgery that was meant to start a new chapter in his life actually became the beginning of the end.
As I tried to make sense of these losses, I learned that one of the most wonderful, gifted Professors I knew in college, Nancy Wheeler, lost her battle with cancer, as did a radio legend from Raleigh, NC that my wife worked with for a time, Jay Butler. As I said, a profound month of losses.
You do know, don’t you, that life is more than your job? I remind you of this as I’m reminded myself lately. It’s easy to get so wrapped in the “problems” of the day… the missing prod orders, the long copy, the goofy way the word Saturday comes out of your mouth… that you don’t take the time for what’s really important in life.
I greatly respected these people, cared about them and learned from them, but never really let them know. I always expected to, “someday.” I’ve been reminded that, sometimes, there’s only a someday if you make it happen today. You know who you should to talk to. Put down the script a minute, pick up the phone, and do it.