Revered farm broadcaster and long-time member of the NAFB family, William (Bill) Alford, 81, of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, died Saturday, Feb. 16 following a brief illness.
Bill may be best known for his 24-year career at WMT AM/FM/TV in Cedar Rapids, where he was a popular farm broadcaster and farm editor. His dedication and passion for his work led to his induction into the WMT Radio Hall of Fame.
Born Feb. 4, 1927, in Fargo, N.D., to Ernest and Tressie Alford, Bill grew up on the Alford Guernsey Dairy Farm, which provided the foundation for a lifelong career in farm broadcasting (radio and TV) and sales.
Bill served with the U.S. Army paratroops occupation forces in Japan after World War II. He graduated from Iowa State University (ISU) in 1951 with a journalism degree. He was editor of the ISU Daily and named “Most Likely to Succeed” in his graduating class.
His farm broadcasting career began at WOI AM/FM/TV, Ames, Iowa, where he worked as an assistant to R.C. “Cap” Bentley, and reported market news on radio and TV. From there he moved to Amherst to work as the extension radio and TV editor for the University of Massachusetts Extension Service. He spent two-and-a-half years supplying a daily tape service to 14 New England radio stations and commuted to Boston for a weekly farm television show on WBZ-TV. His broadcast career then took him to Cincinnati where he worked for Bob Miller on WLW and “Everybody’s Farm” before joining WMT in 1957.
Sales claimed his talents in 1964 at WMT and he became National Sales Director. When WMT became part of Orion Broadcasting, Bill was named Ag Sales Director for all four Orion stations in Green Bay, Louisville, Evansville and Cedar Rapids.
In 1981, he became Ag Sales Director for Blair Radio, and finished his career with the Frank Magid & Associates research firm in 1987. He retired at age 62.
Lynn Ketelsen, of the Linder Farm Network, Owatonna, MN, credits his career to Alford, who he said, gave him a chance by awarding him a WMT scholarship. “He was truly a member of the NAFB family,” Ketelsen said. “Bill touched so many people in and out of our industry. It’s hard to assess his contributions right now, there are so many.”
Those contributions include earning national prominence as president of the Iowa chapter and also as national president of the National Agri-Marketing Association.
A member of NAFB since 1953, he was recognized with the Meritorious Service Award in 1974. He remained an active associate member and was elected as Chairman of the Associates several times. He also was on the original NAFB Sales/Marketing Board, leading the development of the first farm listener study conducted by NAFB.
“Bill was one of the finest, most positive and pro-active NAFB marketing pioneers,” said Gene Millard, emeritus member from St. Joseph, Mo. Gene credits Bill for transforming NAFB’s Sales/Marketing Board into a professional marketing organization.
Bill is survived by his wife of 57 years, Marilyn Larson Alford, and three daughters: Linda Fritts and husband, Jack, of Cedar Rapids, Amy Nakai of Plymouth, Minn., and Susan Boeckmann and husband, Neal, of Cedar Rapids. His four grandchildren are Lisa (David) Kesse, Jessica Fritts, David Nakai and Andrea Nakai. Also surviving is his stepmother, Verna Alford.
Visitation is 4 to 7 p.m. Monday evening, February 18, and funeral services are at 1 p.m. Tuesday, February 19, at Cedar Memorial Park Chapel of Memories. Burial will be at noon Wednesday, February 20, at Callender (Iowa) Cemetery.
Memorials contributions can be made to the Dennis and Donna Oldorf Hospice House of Mercy or Camp Courageous.