By: Dave Olson, INFORUM
FARGO – Marv Bossart, whose broadcast career spanned more than four decades and made him a fixture on TV screens in the Red River Valley, was remembered by family and colleagues Tuesday as a consummate journalist who also knew the importance of a good laugh.
Bossart, who died Tuesday at the age of 79, had battled Parkinson’s disease for several years.
He joined the news department at WDAY-TV in Fargo in 1958. Five years later, he took over the 6 p.m. and what was then the 10:15 p.m. newscasts and was an anchor at WDAY until retiring in 2000.
Over the years, Bossart shared good and bad news with his viewers, earning a permanent place on TV dials by connecting with a sea of viewers, many of whom he would never meet.
‘A great heart’
Kevin Wallevand, a longtime reporter at WDAY, said Bossart’s appeal was due in part to his genuine interest in people.
“He had a great heart and he really empathized with people who were affected by our news. And that’s rare,” said Wallevand, adding that even more than presenting the news, Bossart loved writing stories and getting them just right.
At the same time, Wallevand said Bossart was quick to play the clown. He recalled how Bossart would do things like stomp on pop cans until they clung to his feet and then clomp around like he was wearing a heavy pair of tap shoes.
Meteorologist John Wheeler joined WDAY in 1985 at the age of 24.
He said Bossart became a mentor to him and many others at the station, but he was also something more.
“He was a father figure,” Wheeler said. “He just had a way of softening the hard days. He didn’t get rattled.”
Kerstin Kealy, a current WDAY anchor and a former co-anchor with Bossart, described her colleague as larger than life, a person to whom people were naturally drawn.
“He thrived on that,” she said of the attention Bossart received.
“Right up until the end, he was performing, in some sense,” she added. “He loved to walk around and talk to people.”
William Marcil Sr., chairman of Forum Communications Co., which owns WDAY TV and The Forum, said the company and the WDAY viewing area are better for Bossart’s contributions.
“A community has only one Marv Bossart,” Marcil said.
“Marv was a world-class newscaster that we were lucky to have on our air for 42 years. His spirit will live with all that saw him on TV or ran into him at the grocery store.
“He was as delightful in person as he was on the air. An era has ended today,” Marcil added.
When home, he’s home
Bossart’s wife, Betty, described her husband as a dedicated professional, who, in addition to his anchor job, taught for many decades at what is now Minnesota State University Moorhead.
The couple raised four daughters, and Betty said there were days she felt she could have used a little more help at home. But she understood the demands placed on her husband.
“There was a time when he wouldn’t even come home for supper,” she said.
But, she added, when he did come home, Marv devoted his time to his family.
Daughters Sherry Stoa and Laurie Bossart recalled how the family would pile into the car on Friday nights and drive to the TV station to pick up their dad after his final newscast for the week.
From there, they’d drive to the family cottage on Battle Lake in Otter Tail County, Minn., where they’d spend the weekend together, with no phones or doorbells to answer.
“When he was home, he was so committed to home,” Sherry Stoa said.
But, the sisters added, when their father was home he was also at risk – like the time he got his hand caught in the snow blower and had to go to the hospital. And the time he was mowing the lawn wearing a tie because he didn’t have time to change out of his work clothes and the tie got caught in the branches of a tree.
They said their father laughed when the stories were retold. Laughter, Laurie Bossart said, “was huge for him.” As was music, she added.
“He was a very talented musician. He played a beautiful piano,” she said.
Sherry Stoa said her father had other abilities as well. “He was a wonderful chef and cook,” she said.
‘A real journalist’
Martin Grindeland, a mass communications professor at MSUM who worked with Bossart for 25 years, described his friend and colleague as “a real journalist who kept his opinions to himself.”
He said Bossart was also a wonderful co-worker and instructor who “taught so many students to be great story tellers.”
Colan Hanson, the department’s chairman, said Bossart made him feel very welcome when he came to MSUM from North Dakota State University in the early 1990s.
“He certainly had a way of putting people at ease,” Hanson said.
“We’ve always had really outstanding reports from students,” Hanson added.
“I’ve run into students out in the community who say: ‘Thirty years ago, I had a class from Marv, and he’s the one who inspired me to continue on in mass communications.’
“Always good things you’d hear from people about Marv,” Hanson said.
Laurie Bossart said her father had a way of making students feel passionate about journalism and she said he showed his own passion for the job every night on the air.
“He always showed the person he was,” she said.
Important dates in the life and career of Marv Bossart
1952 – Marv becomes a staff member at KFJM, a radio station at the University of North Dakota. He works as an announcer and reporter.
That summer, he spends two months touring Europe.
1956 – In August, Marv marries Betty Brown, at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Fargo. He also graduates from UND that year and leaves for Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill.
1958– Marv receives a master’s degree in journalism and takes a position with the news department at ABC in Chicago. Later that year, he joins WDAY-TV in Fargo.
1963 – Marv is named newscaster for the 6 p.m. and 10:15 p.m. newscasts.
1999 – Marv receives the Mitchell Charley award for outstanding contributions to the field of broadcast journalism.
2000 – At the age of 66, Marv signs off as news anchor at WDAY-TV after 42 years with the station.
2006 – Marv retires from Minnesota State University Moorhead after 37 years of teaching.