Lee Kline, a famed farm broadcaster and radio personality from Iowa, died peacefully of natural causes at the age of 91 at a Des Moines hospice on Tuesday, January 11, 2022.
Born Marvin Leon Kline on January 25, 1930, he grew up on a farm just north of Conrad, a small town in central Iowa. He graduated with honors from Conrad High School and later graduated from Iowa State University in 1951 with a degree in agricultural journalism. He married his high school sweetheart, Lila Jean Stackhouse, in 1952 and spent two years in the US infantry. After a few years as a public relations specialist for the Chicago Stockyards, in 1954 Kline joined the growing agricultural department of OMS Radio in Des Moines, Iowa, his dream career.
On the air for 41 years as a full-time agricultural broadcaster for the WHO, Kline has become known for his warm interview style, natural curiosity, unique sound recordings and ability to elicit heartfelt stories from farmers, families, businessmen, celebrities, and politicians. Kline retired from full-time broadcasting in 1995, but continued his popular, weekly “Lee Kline’s Notebook” radio shows on WHO and WMT (Cedar Rapids) for another 23 years until the age of 88 years old as of 2018. His broadcasting career spanned a total
64 years old.
Kline was an avid gardener and always had an admiration for trees. He was a board member of Living History Farms in Des Moines, an active and longtime member of the choir at First United Methodist Church in downtown Des Moines, and an enthusiastic regional, national, and global traveler. Together with his wife, he has performed more than 30 international group tours.
He is survived by his wife of 69 years, Lila Jean, of Des Moines, his sons Douglas (Bill Venne) of Minneapolis and Gregory (Kristen) of West Des Moines, two granddaughters Kendra (Nile) Vorbrich of Des Moines and Katherine (Francis) Nguyen of Des Moines, great-granddaughter Olivia Vorbrich, cousins and many beloved nieces and nephews.
Kline was predeceased by his parents, Leslie and Daisy (Hudspeth) Kline of Conrad, and his sister Marlys Dielschneider of Conrad.
Donations can be made to Lee Kline Memorial, Living History Farms and EveryStep Foundation/Kavanagh House Hospice.
A memorial service is scheduled for Monday, January 17 at 1 p.m. at First United Methodist Church, 1001 Pleasant St., Des Moines, IA 50309. Arrangements by Iles Funeral Homes.
A live stream of the service will be available on the day of the service at the link given below. Live stream provided by First United Methodist Church.
An autobiography of Lee Kline
Written in November 2003
I was born in January 1930 and grew up on a 176-acre rented farm near the small town of Conrad in Grundy County, central Iowa during the 1930s and 1940s.
In 1936, my father bought his first tractor, a two-cylinder John Deere “B” row crop machine with 9.28 drawbar horsepower.
I grew up in the seat of this tractor, part of the mechanical revolution that swept the country when farmers switched from horses to machines.
I graduated from Iowa State University in 1951 with a degree in agricultural journalism.
1951 was a big year for me: I got my first job as a public relations officer for the Chicago Stock Yards, I got engaged to Lila Jean Stackhouse who was graduating from Drake University and I was drafted into the US infantry for two years. years during the Korean crisis.
When we were released from the army in 1953, we returned to work at the Chicago Stock Yards. In 1954, Herb Plambeck, Agricultural Director of WHO Radio in Des Moines, called to say they were starting television at WHO and needed a man with market experience.
It was the job I had been looking for all my life. We eagerly moved to Des Moines. I did markets, weather and agricultural news on a half hour TV show called “TV-RFD” and on WHO radio.
Three years later, the television broadcast ended and the WHO agricultural service, four men and a secretary, concentrated solely on broadcasting agricultural radio.
And which I did for 41 years, retiring from full-time broadcasting in 1995. I like to point out that my dad ran the same 176-acre leased farm for over 40 years. Like father, like son!
Three events stand out in my life as a broadcaster:
In 1985, I received the prestigious “Agricultural Oscar” award from the National Association of Farm Broadcasters.
In 1991, I was asked to be part of the Smithsonian Folklife Festival on the National Mall in Washington, DC, outdoors in the shadow of the United States Capitol, during the 4th of July holiday. The theme was “Farming in the Heartland” and I was there to broadcast live in Des Moines from a mock-up radio studio to show how farm broadcasters help farmers.
In 1996, I returned to the Smithsonian’s Folklife Festival when Iowa was featured for its sesquicentennial. My job was to represent Iowa Broadcasting and moderate discussions under the trees of the National Mall, and to encourage questions and discussion from festival visitors. Iowa artists, farming families and business people told their stories.
My daily work at the WHO included what all the farm broadcasters report on markets, weather and farm news.
But if I had to sum up my life, and my way of doing things, it would be this: I only felt complete when I was in the countryside, with my tape recorder, climbing into the cabin of a tractor at the time of planting time. or the cab of a combine at harvest time to get the story for the next day’s broadcast.
My goal was to get the best expression out of the man or woman they could possibly give on the radio. And the way to do that was to get on their territory, in their machines, where they were comfortable and comfortable.
The resulting interview focused on the background noises of the farm – the churning of the big machine during the corn harvest, the interview in the machine shed with the sparrows chirping overhead, or the Talking pig production with the pig self-feeding lids occasionally banging in the background.
Sometimes I would do interviews that weren’t commercial but were about life in the Midwest. This would include following a raccoon hunter near Rhodes, Iowa late at night with his barking dogs. Or ride with an Amish farmer in his buggy as he explains why he wore the hook-and-loop fasteners on his jacket.
I think one of the great satisfactions of broadcasting on a 50,000 watt clear channel radio station is knowing who is listening.
A tugboat captain on the Mississippi River told me he listened to WHO and farm news while at the wheel of his boat pushing barges of corn and soybeans to New Orleans.
A United Airlines pilot, who grew up on a farm in Iowa, said he would listen to the WHO Farm Radio news in the morning while flying over Iowa at 30,000 feet, heading for Chicago at Denver.
And on a trip with farming families to the Calgary Stampede in Canada, Lila and I rented a car and drove to the plains of Canada to try to identify a crop that looked very yellow from the window of the truck. ‘airplane. It turned out to be canola.
But as we drove through the Canadian agricultural countryside, I stopped a man on his tractor plowing a field of harvested wheat. I identified myself and was shocked when he replied, “Oh, we hear you here in Alberta doing the early morning farm news!”
You never know who is listening or where they are!
(After retiring in 1995 from full-time broadcasting, Lee continued his popular weekly “Notebook” shows on WHO and WMT radio stations for another 23 years until the end of 2018, a total of 64 years of service. Additionally, he produced a series of six best-selling compilation recordings of his past interviews which benefited Living History Farms of Des Moines.)
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Posted by Iles Funeral Homes – Westover Chapel – Des Moines on January 15, 2022.