In order to hear the voice of community involvement in Craig during the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, all one had to do was turn on their radio.
But that voice has signed off for the final time.
Richard “Dick” Bonderud, of Palisade, died Saturday in Grand Junction’s Hospice Care Center at the age of 82. Bonderud was a driving force for Craig radio station KRAI-FM beginning in the 1950s.
He first came to the town in 1953 after starting his career in radio at Montrose’s KUBC station. The transfer came after only six weeks of training in the field.
Bonderud became the voice of Craig as a jack-of-all-trades at the station. Aside from broadcasting syndicated programming such as “The Lone Ranger” and reporting on local basketball and football games, he functioned as KRAI’s advertising salesman, eventually becoming the station manager. Additionally, he also devoted a portion of each day to the subject of philosophy and personally repaired the airport beacon on the broadcast tower when necessary.
He went on to become co-owner with then-owner George Cory. Under his management, the station flourished and expanded broadcasting range beyond the Craig city limits.
Bonderud’s influence on Craig was not limited to the radio world, which he exited in the mid-1970s when KRAI was sold.
Besides serving as Craig’s mayor from 1965 to 1967 — at 37, the youngest person to serve in the position at that time — he used his skills as a pilot for the good of the town on numerous occasions. In a 2007 interview with the Fruita Times, Bonderud recounted his experiences in helping Craig officials with his talents in the sky, which he first honed following a short career as a welder after his time in the U.S. Coast Guard during World War II.
“Welding isn’t good for your health,” he said in the interview. “I went to school under the GI Bill and became a pilot.”
While in Craig, he used his Balanca aircraft, along with other planes he owned, for the Colorado Division of Wildlife, emergency hospital patients and prisoner transport for the Sheriff’s Office, for which he served as a posse member.
Bonderud’s widow, Barbara, commented on her husband’s devotion to the Craig community, where the two of them met and married in 1988.
“He was just kind of an institution there for many, many years,” she said.
Barbara said her husband was always either using his plane for the good of the town’s residents or for the sake of further expanding his business.
Bonderud’s legacy lives on in Craig with an honor he received more than 30 years ago, with his namesake Bonderud Avenue, east of Colorado Highway 13. The street was named after him in the late 1970s for his work on the Craig City Council.
Bonderud also was a part of many local organizations, including Lions Club, the Elks Club and the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4265,of which he was a lifetime member.
“He will be greatly missed by all,” Barbara said. “He was a true patriot, for sure. Everybody who knew him would agree.”
VFW Post Sgt. Jim Meineke said he first met Bonderud in the 1950s upon returning from active duty.
“I know he grew up in California and came out here and just fell in love with the country,” Meineke said. “He never wanted to leave.”
Meineke said Bonderud was a good friend and an all-around “community-oriented, super person.”
“He didn’t have his sights on one particular thing,” Meineke said. “He did everything, and there was nothing he wasn’t active in. He was totally involved in this community.”