Dick Munro, the voice behind the radio dial from the dawn of AM broadcasting in Montgomery County, died Wednesday. He was 85.
He had battled Parkinson’s disease, said his wife, Betty.
Munro was an on-air announcer, program director and manager of WCVL-AM and WIMC-FM, where he helped launch the careers of young broadcasters and became a fixture at local government meetings and community events.
Crawfordsville had a champion in the plainspoken Chicagoland native who was a founder of Montgomery United Fund For You (MUFFY), helped his wife run her downtown Merle Norman store and paddled down Sugar Creek to promote the area’s natural resources.
“He was a mountain of a man and a mountain of a broadcaster,” said Crawfordsville Radio general manager Dave Peach, who joined the station when Munro hosted a morning show on WCVL.
Richard Michael Munro was born on Jan. 10, 1936 in Chicago. After serving with the U.S. Army during the Korean War, a colleague invited him to a radio night class in Boston.
Munro worked at radio and television stations in Pennsylvania and West Virginia before applying for a job in Terre Haute when he learned a new station was going on the air in Crawfordsville.
By the mid-1960s, two stations on the nascent FM dial — including one launched by the Journal Review after World War II — had faded away.
Munro was hired to program WCVL, which signed on the air on Dec. 12, 1964 from studios above a jewelry store overlooking downtown Crawfordsville. The station offered a schedule of “melodious music and community information” with classical and country-western shows, farm reports and the “Swap Shop,” which aired three times daily.
The announcers learned to measure up to Munro’s rigorous standards, which required dropping the “Hoosier-isms” when speaking on the air. (Don’t pronounce the city in Ohio sin-suh-nat-uh, they were told.)
“I think Crawfordsville kind of needed somebody like that,” former WCVL news director Jack Cunningham said of Munro’s straightforward personality.
When Cunningham interrupted Munro’s play-by-play of a basketball game one evening after a bulldozer struck a gas line and warned nearby residents to evacuate, Munro relayed the on-scene reports over the gymnasium’ public address system.
Munro left WCVL a few years later to run his own station in Kentucky, but had returned by the 1980s to manage the Crawfordsville dial. (WIMC signed on in 1974 and WCDQ-FM joined the family of stations in 2000.)
“The radio station was his life,” said Jill Pursell, a former sales manager and general manager of the stations.
After retiring from the airwaves, Munro ran a movie production company that made films about Montgomery County and was an author. His 2012 book “Paddling Sugar Creek from the Source to the Wabash” chronicled his four-year, 100-mile journey in a canoe with relatives.
Munro wrote about pulling away from a sporting goods store in a pickup truck hauling a 15-foot canoe upside down in a plastic bag.
“All the way home cars and trucks would pass us,” he wrote. “Inside, people with a smile on their face would turn in their seats to see who in the world was driving that thing. (‘Look children, those must be ‘Real Hoosiers.’)”
He’s also the author of the 2011 historical fiction novel “Tales of a Scottish Freewheeler,” which was set in 1790s in the Scottish Highlands. Munro enjoyed traveling to Scotland.
Until a few months before his death, Munro — a Chicago Cubs fan — was writing a book about baseball, which his daughter, Shawna, helped to finish.
Munro’s obituary appears on Page 2A of today’s Journal Review.