Long time WKBK Radio Host Al Kulas Passes Away.
Last Tuesday at 3:00 PM
Photo: WKBK News
KEENE,NH- It is with a heavy heart and much sadness that we have to announce the passing of one of our long time WKBK talk radio hosts. Al Kulas passed away Tuesday morning at Dartmouth Hitchcock in Lebanon, from an apparent heart attack. Al joined the WKBK talk line up over 15 years ago, back when the station still broadcast from Lampson Street at AM 1220 on the dial.
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We moved to Keene in 2005 after many years of living in major metropolitan areas. We had never lived in a city as small and rural as Keene and we knew that many things would be new to us. I have been a talk-radio fan for years having grown up listening to Long John Nebel, Brad Crandall, Barry Farber and WNBC’s Weekend Monitor. As a college student I listened to Larry King while working a graveyard shift, listened afternoons as Rush Limbaugh become a phenomena and later still discovered the late night magic of Art Bell. In 2005, before internet radio, I wondered if there would be good talk radio in Keene and what it would be like.
Our first wake-up in Keene was on an August Saturday morning – so the first on-air personality I heard was Al Kulas. He seemed to be the only person at the station. He was both hosting the show and reading the news. Half-way through a newscast he got to the name of a foreign leader and stumbled twice over the pronunciation of the unfamiliar name. There was a second of silence before what I thought would be his third try. Instead, he spelled out the name. From that moment, I knew that this was going to be a new radio-listening experience.
In the ten years since that first Saturday in August I have listened to Al Kulas nearly every weekend: even on weekends when I was out of town (thanks to the internet.) I didn’t share Al’s politics. At all. And I did not always listen to the entire show because I was too angry about the opinions expressed to keep listening. But the next Saturday morning, at 5 a.m. I tuned in again.
I have often wondered why. These days, I do not routinely listen to talk shows based on politics radically opposed to my own. But I listened to Al. I finally got a clue as to why when I heard Dan Mitchell (WKBK morning show host and program manager) read posts that some of Al’s fans had posted to the station’s Facebook page after learning of Al’s death. One listener said described Al’s style as “unpolished.” Yes it was. But I would add that it was also authentic.
I suspect that Rush and his ilk are primarily entertainers. But Al Kulas approached his on-air time as if it was a public service that it was his duty and privilege to offer. He was not there to entertain. He was there to share the things he cared about with his neighbors in the Keene area. Politics always. Guns, relentlessly. But also the temperature in West Keene and the temperature at the airport, “this day in history” with editorializations, the winner lottery numbers, polkas, military marches, Christmas carols weeks before Christmas, the farm, memories from his days in the service and his experiences abroad, and so much more. His computer never seemed to work and it was ritual to be late for the station breaks but he answered every on-air phone call with genuine enthusiasm and knew so many of his callers by name.
His show was a special kind of talk radio that I found compelling: not because I agreed with the politics but because it was real. It was a few hours of authentic, unpolished sharing around the things that matter — even when it made me mad enough to turn off the radio. I am not sorry about the times that I’ve turned off the Saturday or Sunday morning Serendipity shows off, but I am sorry that the next time I turn it on, Al won’t be there.
I am grateful for the ten years I had to be one of Al’s on-air neighbors. Thanks Al for your service and for your sharing. I will miss you. May you rest in peace and rise in glory.
And thanks to all those at WKBK who made your show possible.