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Gerry Rohde tribute: Staff and listeners share memories

Gerry Rohde
Erin Gerrity | Washington University
Gerry Rohde

Updated May 11 with St. Louis on the Air conversation in remembrance of Rohde. Orginial story published May 9.

Gerry Rohde’s voice has been familiar to St. Louis Public Radio listeners for more than 30 years. He died this week of an unknown cause.

Geralf  “Gerry” Rohde was born in Bremen, Germany, in 1962. He grew up with his older sister, Geena Eaton, who shared his love for country music, especially Waylon Jennings. According to Eaton, Rohde loved the English language and spent a year in St. Louis as an exchange student in 1978 at Bayless High School.

A few years later, he returned to get his bachelor’s degree in German, with a minor in mathematics, at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. While he was a student, he was hired as a part-time announcer on KWMU’s weekend late-night jazz programs. 

Rohde seemed to enjoy building a reputation for being an odd duck. He owned dozens of vintage cars, particularly a 1978 Chrysler Cordoba that had a taxicab light on top that displayed the letters “KWMU,” was covered in bumper stickers and had a set of steer horns on the hood.

Rohde was also known for his distinctive fashion sense, which included a collection of Hawaiian shirts, bell-bottoms ordered from England and a hat that had a pig's snout on front and a tail on back that he’d wear backward.

While Rohde spent his nights on the airwaves, his day job was working in the stockroom at Washington University’s Department of Biology. Faculty and staff remember that he’d fill his workspace with a variety of noise-making objects that were triggered whenever someone turned on the lights.

One of Gerry Rohde's favorite music beds to use during breaks, labeled "Fruitfuel."

Rohde loved to bring humor into the lives of others, but he was also enigmatic and kept to himself much of the time.

“One side of him wanted to be social. And the other side of him wanted to be like the hermit more,” Eaton said. “Where he wanted to be by himself, do what he thought was right, and it didn’t matter if it was right for other people as long as it was right for him.”

We asked listeners to share memories of Gerry and wanted to share some of ours with you. Keep reading and please keep letting us know about your favorite Gerry Rohde moments.

Listener memories

Click through to read notes from listeners

Staff memories

"Though we worked on opposite ends of the clock at St. Louis Public Radio, I knew Gerry had an enormous fan base in the evening on the air and will be missed. Just like everyone, I am truly saddened by this news of my former colleague. My deepest condolences to his family and friends." — Geri Mitchell, former morning host

Gerry's beloved car, "The Doba"

"For 16 years I talked to him five days a week, when my shift ended and his began. Oh gosh, the conversations we had. I've been to his house to see his auto menagerie and a few months ago he came to Alton and I took him to a few of my favorite downtown spots including a German-themed brewhouse, which you know he appreciated. There's a text message on my phone now he just sent days ago saying he'd holler next time he was in the area. It doesn't happen often, but I was actually speechless when I heard the news of his death. I could write a book about our many conversations and it would be a hysterical page turner." — Steve Potter, former afternoon host

“My friendship with Gerry started 18 years ago when I was afternoon newscaster at St. Louis Public Radio. At first, Gerry intimidated the hell out of me, because he was always so witty and I was so not witty. But every evening he'd greet me with a 'Hello, Shula Noy-man' (the German pronunciation) and after a while, I got to know him for the funny, quirky and generous guy he was. When I returned to St. Louis Public Radio after being gone for more than a decade, I thought for sure he didn't remember me. Then one evening a few weeks after I came back, our paths crossed and he said, 'Hello, Shula Noy-man,' and I knew all was right in the world. In addition to making me laugh around the office, I would tune into the station at night to hear his breaks ... they always made me laugh, too.” — Shula Neuman, executive editor

Gerry Rohde in 1989
Credit Mike Schrand | St. Louis Public Radio
Gerry in 1989

  “I worked with Gerry for more than 30 years, so isolating one memorable moment is almost impossible. One thing I want everyone to know is that despite the fact that he was an easygoing and fun-loving guy, he was totally conscientious about his board shift. I learned to stay away for at least the first 20 minutes of his shift while he went through his copy, printed rundowns and promos, checked pronunciations and got all his weather forecasts in order. When the underwriting announcements were no longer part of the log on the screen, he would enlarge them in the copier, cut out each one and tape it to the side of the screen so he could more easily see and read it. He also would ask to use my computer to double check all questionable pronunciations, even those of the hockey or baseball players for when he gave the results of the night's games at the end of his shift. Later on in the evening, he frequently came to my office with the joke of the day, usually a silly but clever riddle, that would make me groan, but laugh. Finally, he was one of the most generous people I know. When my friend had a car issue, he correctly diagnosed her problem over the phone, advised her what part she needed and then installed the part in his ‘super’ garage. He was totally taken aback when she gave him a gift card to his favorite parts store because he hadn't expected or wanted any kind of remuneration. He was also my car consultant, advising me on the purchase of my last two cars (and when it was time to move on from the older one) which both turned out to be great cars. I could go on and on, but one thing for sure, I will really miss him.” — Mary Edwards, "St. Louis on the Air" executive producer

"The Doba"

"I had the pleasure of working with Gerry for more than 20 years at St. Louis Public Radio. I really enjoyed his wit and unique style. He was the first and only person to address me as ‘Mr. Raackenstein’. Just a good guy." — Bill Raack, former editor

"We'd talk occasionally when I was working late covering County Council or something. We were tag-teaming at the station's Earth Day table a few weeks back. I had the morning shift, and it had been a bit harried. Anyway, Gerry showed up on time, wearing all black. As I gave him the lowdown, I introduced him to my husband, Jim. Gerry chuckled and said, "I didn't know you were married." I guess he thought it was funny… Anyway, as my husband and I left, Jim said that classic line: "What's up with that guy?" I laughed yesterday when Mike told a similar "what's up'' story from a listener. Never did know "what was up'' with Gerry. But I really admired his dedication to his job, and the station." — Jo Mannies, politics reporter

“Gerry was always a welcome sight when we were working late at the station, as he had this free-wheeling spirit and something funny and offbeat to say every time he would greet you. From the beginning, he has been a key part of my experience of the station as a fun place to work.” — Madalyn Painter, director of digital media

“Gerry and I shared many interests including German culture. Mr. Rohde was a remarkably nice person with a laid-back outlook about life. Occasionally, Gerry would wear multiple name tags during stationed-sanctioned events. Of course, I thought this was unusually weird since the name tags were expired or out of circulation. In 2012, Gerry finally explained the reason: ‘I want people to know who I am.’ Wir werden dich alle schmerzlich vermissen (you will sadly be missed by all of us).” — Geoffrey Burton, corporate account executive

Gerry Rohde

“Because I worked events, I would often see Gerry. One night, I had my kids with me — this would have been when they were little — and Gerry was the first St. Louis Public Radio person I introduced them to. He was really funny, often told corny jokes that my kids loved. I was sad to hear of his passing, and I texted both of my kids the news. They're sad, too. He was just a really neat, funny guy. When I stopped by the station today, I parked my car on the Commons, which Gerry would sometimes do.” — Phil Donato, former marketing and events manager

“I didn't know Gerry like others do here, but he was the voice I listened to every evening for as long as I can remember. I shared his affinity for classic cars and just Saturday, I saw a gold and black '72 Ranchero for sale and immediately thought of him. ‘Gerry needs that car,’ I thought. 'Or, he already has one.’” - Dawn Fels, marketing and communications specialist

“Gerry had an unmistakable voice and on-air presence that made our audience very comfortable with him during the evening hours. What’s more is his incredible dedication to his job at STLPR; he simply never missed a shift. I can only recall perhaps one or two times over the nine years that I have been with St. Louis Public Radio that he took a night off. As unmistakable as his presence was on air, he was as fascinating and quirky off air. He loved good beer and cooked incredible barbeque. And he really loved being a part of the family at St. Louis Public Radio. Gerry will be deeply missed by those inside STLPR and by our listeners.” — Tim Eby, general manager


Share your memories: Join the conversation in the comments below.

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Eli is the science and environment reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.
As the Digital Product Lead, Brendan works with departments across the station in maintaining the digital presence of St. Louis Public Radio while also managing the station’s digital communications. Brendan comes to St. Louis Public Radio following an internship with The Nine Network of Public Media, working on the Emmy Award-winning American Graduate initiative. He is a graduate of Saint Louis University where he studied journalism, visual communication and Italian.