Sir Seven stood tall in Dudley Tower Tuesday, and probably prouder than ever before, but outside an empty, quiet office.
"Everyone is quiet and somber," Community Foundation of North Central Wisconsin Executive Director Jean Tehan said. "He (Dick Dudley) was a really great man. He was loved."
Dick Dudley, a founder of NewsChannel 7 and one of the broadcast industry's greats, died Tuesday at the age of 89.
"I think he had a view of building a television empire before anyone else did," Mark Zelich, former WSAW-TV Sports Director who Dudley hired in 1957. "He did just that."
His life was vibrant and so was his passion.
People said he'd never make any money running a television station from the ground up in Wausau, but Dudley and his newspaper colleagues gave it a try anyway, and they were successful.
Under joint ownership WSAU Incorporated and Wisconsin Valley television, he helped with Channel 7's first broadcast which aired October, 24, 1954.
"My Irish temperament," Dudley said in an interview about starting the television business in our area. "I was gonna show 'em."
"His personality. His directness. Whether you liked him or not, you knew Richard Dudley," Zelich said.
Dudley served as President of Wisconsin Broadcasters Association in 1977-78. He was also chairman of National Association Broadcasters Radio Board from 1967 to 1969.
After spending nearly 50 years in the television business, he formed the Dudley Foundation in 2000, which gives $250,000 in community development grants in Marathon County every year, not to mention the beautiful Dudley Tower downtown in 2007.
"He really enjoyed giving quietly to people," Tehan said.
Dudley, a WWII veteran, joined the Navy at age 17, and flew dozens of missions in the Pacific.
"I asked him, 'Dick, why did you survive?'" Zelich said. "He said, 'I'll tell you what Z, I made up my mind to survive.'"
He has changed the community where we live and the television we watch.
"He was a big part of my career and my life," Zelich said. "I'm going to miss him."
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