Late Bob Junkert: Sports junkie to be inducted in DECC Hall of Fame
Bob Junkert served as master of ceremonies of the DECC Athletic Hall of Fame for several years until a heart attack curtailed his involvement. Though another heart attack claimed Junkert's life nearly 30 years ago, the former WDSM radio and telev...
Bob Junkert served as master of ceremonies of the DECC Athletic Hall of Fame for several years until a heart attack curtailed his involvement.
Though another heart attack claimed Junkert's life nearly 30 years ago, the former WDSM radio and television personality's life will be on the other end of the microphone when inducted into the DECC Hall of Fame on Sept. 12.
Junkert broadcast Minnesota Duluth hockey for more than a decade, mainly for WDSM radio, and spent 28 years as a play-by-play announcer in Duluth, calling everything from Duluth Dukes baseball games to local high school and college football, basketball and hockey games. He also was a longtime television anchorman for WDSM, now KBJR.
"If it was sports in Duluth for 20, 25 years, it was him and (fellow broadcaster) Marsh (Nelson)," said Dallas resident Kent Junkert, 54, the youngest of Bob's three sons.
A North Dakota native, Junkert began his broadcasting career in Valley City, N.D., before moving on to KLPM in Minot, N.D. Then came a stint as sports director for Armed Forces Radio Network in Frankfurt, Germany, during which time his first son, Mark, was born.
That job also included interviewing celebrities of the day, such as noted crooner Bing Crosby, which perhaps led Junkert down the path to landing interviews with some of sport's most notable stars -- a collection of photographs provided by his family show him talking with the likes of legendary Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi, former NFL star quarterback Otto Graham and NFL Hall of Famer Bronko Nagurski.
"I have autographs from Johnny Unitas, all the old Twins and anybody from the '60s that he would get for me," Kent Junkert said. "He interviewed anybody who was of interest in sports nationwide and, of course, from Minnesota."
Upon his return to the United States, Junkert worked at WEAU radio in Eau Claire, Wis., and later served as play-by-play announcer for the Minnesota Vikings' inaugural season in 1961.
Junkert seemed to find his niche when he came to Duluth, eventually becoming radio play-by-play announcer for UMD hockey, first for WDSM and then for WEBC.
"He was a great guy," former UMD men's hockey coach Gus Hendrickson said from his home in Grand Rapids. "He told it honestly and just the way it was; he didn't pull any punches or cross any lines that he shouldn't."
Hendrickson says Junkert traveled with the team on bus trips and fondly recalls the radio man having first crack at treats meant for the players.
"I'd always buy doughnuts for the kids when we took off early in the morning, and Bob was always pretty good at diving into that bucket of doughnuts right away," Hendrickson said with a laugh.
Between the numerous sporting events he called and his duties as anchorman, president of the Duluth Lions Club and, later, director of public relations at the DECC, it didn't leave much time for a home life.
"He wasn't home much because he was sports 24-7," Kent Junkert said. "He was on the 6 and 10 (o'clock broadcasts), and between UMD stuff and everything else he was gone doing sports. He loved it."
Junkert earned numerous awards, including being named Duluth Sportscaster of the Year, before dying of a heart attack in late December 1982. He was 55.
Former UMD hockey player Jim Nelson served as Junkert's radio color man for 14 years. Nelson, who died earlier this summer, was quoted in the News Tribune following Junkert's death, describing the broadcaster's passion: "He loved sports. None of us gets rich in this business, we're all just in it because we love it -- and that's what he did."