Richard Bertelmann, professionally known as Dick Bertel, was an American radio and television personality and broadcasting executive born on January 6, 1931. He passed away on September 11, 2023. Bertel was best known for his work in Hartford, Connecticut, nationally on the NBC and Mutual Broadcasting System radio networks, and internationally for the Voice of America.
Born at Bronx Maternity Hospital on the Grand Concourse in the Bronx, New York City, Bertel was the son of Meta Katherina “Martha / Mattie” (née Delvanthal) Bertelmann and Heinrich “Henry” Bertelmann. His mother was the daughter of German immigrants living in East Harlem, and his father emigrated from Hemmoor, Germany in 1909. He became a naturalized citizen in 1933. Bertelmann had one sibling, Henry John “Harry” Bertelmann, a U.S. Army veteran of World War II.
As a child, Bertelmann showed early signs of his future career. His mother claimed that he would often babble “W-E-A-F New York,” referring to a prominent New York City radio station. Known as “Richie” during his early years, he grew up in the Wakefield section of the Bronx and attended Public Schools 87 and 68.
His parents separated in 1936 and divorced in 1939. In 1940, his mother married James Morton “Jim” Latz, who became Bertelmann’s primary father figure. The family moved to Darien, Connecticut in 1944, where Bertelmann attended Hollow Tree Ridge Junior High School and later Darien High School. It was during this period that he began going by “Dick.”
Bertelmann’s broadcasting career kicked off between 1948 and 1955 in Fairfield County radio stations, particularly those located along the Boston Post Road corridor. His early career was shaped by several key factors:
- The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) lifted its wartime ban on issuing licenses, leading to the growth of new stations.
- The rise of commercial television led to local stations producing their own shows, creating job opportunities.
- FM radio stations struggled as consumers turned towards television, maintaining AM radio’s dominance for several decades.
Bertelmann used these circumstances to his advantage, carving out a successful career in both radio and television. In his retirement, he volunteered to help non-native English speakers achieve conversational competency.
Later Career and Legacy
Dick Bertel made a significant impact in the broadcasting world, especially in Hartford, where he became a local icon. His work on the NBC and Mutual Broadcasting System radio networks earned him national recognition, and his contributions to the Voice of America made him a known figure internationally.
Dick Bertel passed away on September 11, 2023, marking the end of an illustrious career and leaving a lasting impact on the world of broadcasting.