Longtime KOMO Radio host dies

Longtime KOMO Radio host dies »Play Video

SEATTLE -- For 30 years he was the voice of KOMO Radio.

Larry Nelson died early Thursday morning after a battle with lung cancer. He was 70.

In the 1960s, Nelson got his first Seattle-area job with Bellevue station KFKF, owned by Kemper Freeman. He was then hired away to sit at the head of the "KOMO Breakfast Table," when the station did a little bit of everything: news, traffic, and some music.

Larry was a part of mornings on KOMO until he retired in 1997, and his strong voice brought news and laughs to listeners throughout the Puget Sound area.

Gina Tuttle was Nelson's longtime news partner at KOMO and said he was the same on the air as he was off.

"What you heard was exactly him. There was never any faking it," she said. "It's an incredible loss. You end up spending as much time with a radio partner as you do with a spouse.

"He made the most of every second he had to talk to his listeners, and that's one reason his commercials were as fun to listen to as the rest of the program."

Ted Garlatz Jr., who flew for the "KOMO Air Patrol" after his father and provided traffic reports for more than 10 years while Larry was on the air, said working him was always enjoyable.

"Larry always had a cheerful voice," he said. "Larry Nelson was, as they say, 'Captain Radio.'"

As news of Nelson's passing spread Thursday morning among friends and former co-workers, everyone was always quick to mention a funny story about their time with the radio host.

Bryan Johnson started at KOMO Radio in 1959 and jokingly refers to Nelson as a "latecomer."

"I always thought Larry was my age. Today I heard he was 70, and I feel like asking somebody: prove it!" Johnson said. "Because one of the things Larry was proud of, was that he had several driver's licenses, all with different ages."

Johnson said Larry used to work as a jail guard in King County and had lots of friends in law enforcement.

"I don't know how he convinced them, but Larry had real Washington state driver's licenses with different years of birth. And he would never admit how old he was."

Johnson said one of the things he will always remember about Nelson was his ability to joke.

Before Metro Traffic provided incident reports and traffic updates to a majority of area broadcasters, Johnson said most would get the information from KOMO Radio.

The other broadcasters would listen to KOMO's two-way radios, Johnson said, to get the traffic reports and they would repeat them.

"I, Larry Nelson, and Ted Ted Garlatz Sr., sat down one morning and said 'how are we going to get these turkeys?'"

Johnson said they concocted a fake traffic report sent out only over the internal two-way radios and not over the KOMO airwaves to the public.

"Ted went on the two-way talking about a truck carrying barrels of oil that had just had an accident on the 520 bridge, spilling oil every which way and advising people to drive around the north end of the lake," Johnson said. "Two Seattle radio stations repeated that and kept repeating it for another 40 minutes."

"I think it was one of Larry's proudest moments," Johnson said.

A public memorial will be held Monday, Dec. 3 at 1 p.m. at the First Covenant Church at 400 East Pike Street in Seattle.



Larry's friends have set up a web site for people to share their memories at www.larrybnelson.com

On Thursday evening, KOMO 1000 News aired an hour-long tribute to Larry Nelson. You can listen to the tribute online.

The tribute will be re-broadcast on Sunday, December 2, at 6 a.m., 10 a.m., and 10 p.m.