by Derek Waring
The Modesto Radio Museum mourns the loss of our member and dear friend Bob De Leon. Bob passed away December 19, 2020 from complications of COVID-19. We express our sincere condolences to Roni, Bob’s wife, daughter Rhonelle and the family.
Bob is a graduate of Modesto High School (1960) where he was a Yell Leader and active in band. While in high school Bob became acquainted with Kent Whitt which eventually led to the formation of the band Kent Whitt and the Downbeats. The band developed quite a name for itself in the area and in December of 1963 was invited to participate in a USO tour to entertain troops in Alaska, Japan, Taiwan, Korea, the Philippines, Okinawa, and Vietnam. It was a five month tour which lasted until May, 1964.
While in Vietnam both Bob and Kent got notices that they had been drafted. Ironically after basic training Bob was sent back to the same Army base in Vietnam that he was in when he received his draft notice. Upon Bob’s return from duty in Vietnam, on December 18, 1965 he married his sweetheart Roni who was a graduate of Turlock High School. December 18, 2020 Bob and Roni had been married for 55 years.
Bob attended Ogden’s Radio Operational Engineering School in Huntington Beach CA. where he received his Federal Communications Commission First Class Radio Telephone License. He started work at KFIV (K5) in the late 60s working the 8:00-midnight shift and eventually the morning shift before going on to become Music Director and eventually Program Director of the station. Both as a DJ and Program Director Bob endeared himself to his listeners and his staff. People today still say that they grew up to the voice of Bob De Leon on K5. He was the “soundtrack” of their lives. And of course there are wonderful stories from his employees about his kindness and understanding.
Rick Myers shares some of his memories telling us that Bob was already a legend on Rick’s first day of work at K5. Rick was the all-night guy. Bob was the morning guy and would come in at six. Most morning disc jockeys arrive one minute ‘til six, unshaven, unkempt hair, trying to find the coffee pot, and spending the first 30 minutes of their show waking up. Bob arrived at 5:30, wearing a dress shirt and a tie and carrying a briefcase. He arranged his music, and pulled out a folder with jokes and material for that day’s show. Rick learned then that Bob “Shows Up” and he shows up on time.
On another occasion Bob asked Rick to transfer one of a national account’s recorded commercials from the agency’s tape to one of the tapes that the station used. The first thing that was done when completing this task was to erase the station’s tape so that it’s clean. And that was done with a magnetic eraser. So Rick had these two tapes in his hands, and, he erased the wrong tape! Rick said that his 18 year-old life flashed before his eyes. He thought to himself, people get fired for stuff like this! Rick’s dream job looked finished before it even started. Rick told Bob what he had just done. Bob looked at Rick and said, “Let me see that tape.” The agency’s telephone number was on the box. Bob called New York City and said, “This is Bob De Leon from KFIV, Modesto. That tape you sent us is blank. Can you send out another one? OK, thanks.” Bob looked at Rick, smiled, and said, “Welcome to K5, Kid.” What Rick learned from this incident and found to be true throughout his life is that Bob De Leon was an uncommonly nice man.
Bob liked to tell the story of one of his “claims to fame.” He hired a DJ who eventually went on to become a nationally known and a sometimes controversial personality. Don Imus (Imus In The Morning) was in between jobs and Bob hired him to work for a couple of weeks at KFIV before he moved on to stardom. Bob liked to talk about how he taught Don Imus everything he knew.
Bob left K5 in 1972 to work for KTRB, taking K5 disc jockey Derek Waring along with him. Bob had hired Derek two years before (Bob always claimed it was his best hire ever) and the two had become close friends.
Bob left KTRB in 1974 to work as the Veterans Outreach Coordinator at Modesto Junior College. In 1975 he took a position at Manteca High School teaching a radio class. Radio and entertaining was in the blood and Bob and Derek had a part time DJ business for a number of years in the 80s and early 90s. They did many high school reunions, ’50s/’60s dances, weddings and birthdays.
Bob was awarded two Lifetime Achievement Awards by Modesto Area Music Awards (MAMA), one in 2011 for a radio and music career that spanned five decades. Bob’s other MAMA Award came in 2019 when he was recognized as one of the KFIV 1360 Classic DJs. Bob was proud of these achievements. He was also a founding member of the Modesto Radio Museum which began in 2004.
It was in real estate where Bob spent most of his career. He worked for Continental Real Estate, USA Real Estate, Paul M. Zagaris Inc., Prudential California Realty and Century 21 M&M and Associates. Bob served as Director of Modesto Association of Realtors for eight years, State Director of California Association of Realtors and was Modesto Board of Realtors, Realtor of the Year in 1982. He participated in the Professional Standards Committee, was Chairman of the Education and Equal Rights Committees and was on the Christmas CanTree, Coats for Kids and Daffodil Days Committees. Bob is spoken of highly by clients and colleagues alike. In radio and in real estate Bob loved to work and chose to work until the last few weeks of his life.
Bob was active on the social media scene and participated in many discussions about Modesto and the “good old days.” One individual referred to Bob as the “resident historian.” Anyone needing information about what was or when it existed was most likely referred to Bob De Leon. If you had a history question, Bob was the answer man.
Bob De Leon leaves behind a legacy of kindness, generosity and selflessness. One need only read the responses from the hundreds of people who have expressed their feelings on social media to realize the impact that Bob has had on his friends and his community. If he were here now Bob would say, “THANK YOU for being a treasured part of my life, THANK YOU for letting me serve you and THANK YOU for letting me entertain you. It was my pleasure.”
Read Rick Myers Introduction of Bob at the MAMA Awards
Listen to Bob De Leon – Aircheck