Duluth TV news veteran Dick Wallack dies at age 82
For more than 40 years, Twin Ports broadcasters have looked to Dennis Anderson as a journalism mentor. But when Anderson first arrived at WDIO-TV in 1969, it was Dick Wallack that set the standard. "I feared that I wouldn't be able to live up to ...
For more than 40 years, Twin Ports broadcasters have looked to Dennis Anderson as a journalism mentor.
But when Anderson first arrived at WDIO-TV in 1969, it was Dick Wallack that set the standard.
"I feared that I wouldn't be able to live up to what he had done," Anderson, who took over the WDIO anchor seat from Wallack in 1971, recalled Friday. "He was a tough act to follow."
Wallack, whose long career in broadcast journalism included anchoring stints at two Duluth television stations, died Thursday at age 82.
"I learned so much about how journalism works and how journalism is supposed to work from Dick Wallack," said Barbara Reyelts, news director at Northland's News Center, which includes KBJR-TV where Wallack spent much of his career. "He was a pioneer, and just such a great guy."
Richard "Dick" Wallack was born in St. Cloud, Minn., and served with the Marines in the Korean War, according to an obituary submitted by his family. He started his broadcast career at WJON radio in St. Cloud in 1953, re-enlisted in the Marines for a few years, then worked in radio and TV in Fargo, N.D. before being hired as WDIO's first news anchor when the station started broadcasting in 1966.
"Dick had a wonderful voice on television, a great timbre in his voice that connected" with viewers," said Anderson, who since retiring from WDIO in 2011 has served as co-host of "Almanac North" on WDSE/WRPT.
Anderson hosted the "Action Line" segment of the newscast in his first years at WDIO; on-air and off, Wallack invariably called him "Den-Den."
"That friendly demeanor carried onto the air," Anderson said. "What you saw on the screen" was who Wallack was.
Wallack ended his newscasts with: "This is Dick Wallack, hoping all your news will be good news. Goodnight."
In 1971, Wallack left WDIO to become anchor at Channel 6 -- then WDSM-TV, now KBJR. Anderson took over the anchor chair at WDIO, while Wallack shared his skills with a new set of colleagues.
He transitioned to behind-the-scenes roles as managing editor and producer, and launched KBJR's "Live at Five" show in the early 1980s with Jack McKenna as host, Reyelts as news anchor and a bevy of live guests.
"It was not an easy show to produce," Reyelts recalled Friday. "Jack McKenna was a free spirit and I was a relatively new anchor.
"Dick was a wonderful mentor," she said, keeping the show running on time with stopwatch in hand. "He took us from zero, nobody doing a show at 5 o'clock, to a 40 share -- it was unheard of."
"He was a sharp guy; we appreciated having him there," said McKenna, who worked with Wallack at both WDIO and KBJR.
Wallack retired from KBJR in 1994. In addition to his broadcast jobs, he spent 14 years as a career counselor with the Minnesota Army National Guard.
Wallack is survived by his wife, Sharon, who has been a receptionist at KBJR since 1969, and five children. At his request, there will be no funeral service. An obituary is slated to run in Sunday's News Tribune.
Clip of 1975 KBJR-TV newscast featuring Dick Wallack: