Bob De Leon, 78

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.

Kent Whitt and the Downbeats with a young Bob De Leon second from the right.

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 and Roni in 2019 on the eve of Bob’s second MAMA Award as a KFIV 1360 Classic DJ.

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.

Bob doing his show at a remote location. Remotes drew big crowds. Have Turntables, Will Travel.

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 and Derek, friends for over 52 years.

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.

Derek Waring and Bob De Leon, 2019 MAMA Lifetime Achievement Awards as KFIV 1360 Classic DJs.

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.”

Bob De Leon, the voice and smile that launched thousands of records.

Bob De Leon receives Lifetime Achievement Award

Read  Rick Myers   Introduction of Bob at the MAMA Awards

Listen to  Bob De Leon – Aircheck







10 thoughts on “Bob De Leon, 78”

  1. This dedication sums everything up about Bob. I’ve known Bob since High School. He was always the ultimate as far as respect, friendship, and he never changed. He always made you feel welcome & truly a good friend. You could go years without seeing Bob, and when you did see him again, it was like seeing him yesterday. Bob was a legend. I’m humbled to have known Bob.

    1. Thank you for your comments Clarice. Bob was like a brother to me. We were close friends for over 52 years. As I wrote this tribute I wanted so much to capture the essence of who Bob De Leon was. Your comments have put my mind at ease.

  2. Thank you Derek for this beautiful tribute! He was one of a kind and he had so many friends and people who love him. I still can’t quite believe he is gone. ❤

  3. 51 years ago this month, Bob hired me to be the midnight to 6:00 a.m. DJ at K5. He remained my friend, and we’ve been fighting over who owed who an A&W root beer float for years. Terrific man, terrific friend. Love to Roni, and much respect and admiration for my friend Derek Waring for his lovely tribute.

  4. I got to know Bob well when I got my Real Estate license and joined Century 21 M & M. Bob taught the Real Estate Contract class and did a terrific job at it. He always had an open door policy for anyone with a question, and I always had many. The many times I spent with him in his office usually were spent talking about the “good ol days”, and Bob could elaborate like nobody else! In late 2011 the North Modesto Kiwanis resurrected my old car club, The FAROS, for the American Graffiti Festival. When I had meetings at the C21 classroom with my FAROS buddies on a Saturday, Bob would be there. After all, he knew all the original guys from Modesto High School. Over the years we spent many hours in his office talking about how it was “back in the day”; and let me tell you, he could tell stories with such detail, you could imagine you were there as it happened. Today as a member of the Advisory Team with the Graffiti USA Classic Car Museum, I have been looking forward to the day Bob could be involved with the Radio Station segment we are planning. And I am certain that he will still be there. I for one, am excited to see how his memories will be on display! Hey Mr. DJ! Play “Misty” for me and my girl!

  5. I met Bob when he worked with my husband,John Matich at MJC as a veteran’s benefit counselor. He was one of John’s closest friends there.


  7. What can one say about a friend of more than 50 years? So, So very much, and then a lot more. Bob DeLeon was a loving, kind and gentle person who touched so many hearts, mine included I am proud to say. He spent his life giving and helping others, and in the process he achieved success in oh so many endeavors…. the music business, broadcasting, real estate, sales, community service, leadership, teaching, educating and most important… making friends all along the way. Bob hired me as a disc-jockey in 1970 at K-5. It turned out to be a move that would fill my life with joy and so many memories. KFIV was a giant of a radio station in Modesto and I was very honored to be a part of it in its hay day in the early 70’s. I eventually went on to be program director at K-5 and carried the torch along the path of Bob’s footprints. We eventually went our own separate ways but always stayed in touch and got together over the years with fellow broadcasters to celebrate the past and move on into the future together as life-long buddies and still the K-5 Guys. My heart and soul and lots of love go out to Roni and Ronelle, and also, a thank you for sharing this wonderful man with all of us. The world is a bit lonlier now but we all move on together with Bob DeLeon in our hearts. Rest in eternal peace my dear friend.

  8. Would be Safe to say Bob Deleon was Not only A Pioneer of Great Modesto Radio, But also Left a “Great Legacy for all of us” who were learning What great Radio was, by his example. Another Legend is Gone, But NEVER Forgotten. (Fast Lane Clark – KFIV AM/FM)

  9. I met Bob DeLeon at Modesto High. He was two years ahead of me. I too played piano and played in many local bands, including working for Jim Burgett. Burgett’s band worked the American Legion Hall in S. Lake Tahoe every summer and that was an experience for me at such a young age.

    At about age 15, I became a local dance and concert promoter and promoted events throughout the area. While I never promoted a Kent Whitt & the Downbeats dance, I was very familiar with them and knew all of the musicians.

    I left Modesto in 1964 so I missed Bob DeLeon’s experience at KFIV Radio. But, I knew the station well since I worked there from 1962 to about 1964. I worked as a DJ on the weekends since I had a First Class Engineer’s license also from Bill Ogden’s engineering school, which in 1962 was in Burbank.

    I attended a class reunion for Modesto High in the early 90’s and Bob DeLeon was the hired DJ so I enjoyed all of the old hits from the late 50’s and early 60’s.

    I was sorry to read that Bob DeLeon passed away recently. He will be missed.

    Larry Larson

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