Submitted by Glen Hicks, Karl Johnston and Gord Macdonald
Veteran broadcaster Dennis Gerein passed away on March 8 at the age of 77.
For those who knew him, Gerein’s famously gruff façade (which many figured was actually part of his charm) belied an extraordinary manager, mentor and man. A few minutes in a room with him – if you could spot him through the cigar smoke – and you knew this guy understood radio, its people, and what was needed to succeed. Like so many who dedicated a lifetime to the industry, Dennis earned his stripes.
Gerein started his radio career as a duty announcer in CKXR Salmon Arm, BC in 1968. Within two years, he was hosting the morning show and pursuing his dual passions for play-by-play sports and sales, soon becoming the station’s top biller. From there he went to CKGY Red Deer in sales in 1972 and then CKIQ in Kelowna in 1974 to do sales & play-by-play.
In 1976, Gerein was off to CKLQ in Brandon for a new station launch in the role of General Sales Manager. 1981 was the year Gerein’s many talents and passion for radio truly shone when Bob Hall and Walter Gray (Four Seasons Radio) asked him to return to BC to manage CJAT Trail, a station added to the Salmon Arm/Kelowna group. Then, in 1985 Four Seasons purchased CKKC Nelson and CFKC Creston where Gerein and his team of young broadcasters created the Kootenay Broadcasting System (KBS) and became an early pioneer in network radio and split cart commercials.
Gerein is best known for his vision, leadership, mentorship, and unique character as he led a team of young and up and comer broadcasters to create award winning radio that always put every community in the West Kootenay first. All this was accomplished during a time of revenue and economic decline, as the Trail smelter automated and shed 3,500 jobs in a couple of years (in a town of seven thousand!).
Despite the constant economic headwinds of the ’80s, Gerein’s commitment to local radio never wavered. The KBS team won numerous BCAB and RTNDA awards, including for a music, t-shirt, and advertising campaign urging Trail citizens to ‘Up Your Attitude!’. While other companies were cutting newsroom staffs and automating programming, Dennis went bigger, boasting an eight-person news and sports team.
For many, KBS was a first job after BCIT and at one point, in the ’90s, seven news directors in B.C. were KBS alumni. Importantly, the communities of the West Kootenay responded to Gerein’s increased commitment to community and the stations became financially successful. In 1995, Four Season’s turned to Gerein to lead CKIQ Kelowna and launch Kelowna’s first country radio station, The Bullet, before completing his career back in the Kootenays leading CKGF/CKQR and Boundary Kootenay Radio (BKR). BKR was operated with much the same commitment to community that he demonstrated across the street at KBS. He retired in 2005. Gerein was an industry builder, serving 10 years as a BCAB director, including six of those years as convention chair.
To say they no longer make them like Dennis would be an understatement. For those, who worked for Gerein early in their career he fueled a passion and commitment for local radio. He will be remembered for being a man of integrity; he was never shy to be straight but always fair, honest and someone people worked to impress.