'It was never a job for me'
After 43 years in radio broadcasting, Richard Peterson signed on for the last time Friday morning as host of the weekday "Rochester's Good Morning" show on KROC AM 1340, which had been on the air since 1999.
All Friday morning, listeners and former co-workers placed their calls into the KROC studio to send Peterson their goodbyes as he retired.
"My mornings won't be the same without you," one caller said on the air. "Just wanted to thank you and wish you well."
Even Rochester Mayor Ardell Brede placed a call to the studio from Fergus Falls to congratulate Peterson on his contributions in local radio, officially proclaiming "Richard Peterson Day."
"Today's your day," Brede told Peterson on the air. "Thank you, for all that you've done."
Whether it actually hit him that Friday's show was his last, Peterson expressed it was "very humbling."
"I didn't know what to expect," he said. "It didn't really hit me yet. It was so nice to hear from that many people, you just never know how much you may or may not have affected someone on any given day."
'It kind of stuck with me'
The magic of radio reached Peterson when he was a child growing up in Richfield, a suburb in the Twin Cities. His parents listened to WCCO while Peterson was in his "toddler shorts." He thought someday, he'd pursue a career in radio.
"The Beatles were getting popular, and I just thought it'd be cool to someday play records and say stupid things," he mused. "It kind of stuck with me then."
He graduated from Richfield High School in 1971 and went to the University of Minnesota, originally to play baseball, but it didn't exactly work out the way he wanted. He was studying business, but didn't find his passion in that area.
He eventually was recommended to go to the Brown Institute in 1973 and went into broadcasting with KAHL in North Platte, Neb., in July 1974. He went onto Burlington, Colo., with KNAB. Then, Omaha, Neb. (KFAB), and then Peterson did a seven-year stint in Rochester with KROC. He was then asked to go to Rapid City, S.D., with KKKMK and KKLS for almost nine years.
Peterson returned to KROC AM in fall 1999 to host "Rochester's Good Morning" and has been with the station ever since. During his career, he met and married his wife, Nancy. They have three children, Scott, Tim and Kaitlyn, and two grandchildren, Zoey and Jack.
While in Rochester, Peterson also announced for the Rochester Honkers, occasionally announced for the local high schools, helped out at Apollo Liquor, and did some "medical acting" at Mayo Clinic.
Those who worked closely with Peterson over the decades have come to rely on his friendly and relatable approach to interviews while on the show. One such friend includes Sherwood Peterson Jr., who appeared in a monthly segment called "The Corner Pharmacist," which started in 1994.
"You can certainly tell by how many people he's impacted by who called," Peterson Jr. said. "(Rich) is that guy you'd consider sitting across the kitchen table with, and strike up a conversation with. He's friendly, and he's survived ... and he's done well."
There was only one time the Corner Pharmacist didn't air, and it was on a day that Peterson considered to be the most harrowing day in his four-decade career — 9/11.
"I can remember exactly what I was doing, we were on the air when the planes started crashing into the World Trade Center," Peterson said. "We went into 24 hours worth of news coverage, and not knowing what was next."
Peterson recounted the somber feeling many had.
"We opened the microphone, and we didn't know what to say," he said. "From that point on, everything becomes a blur. With the constant updates and everything else, it was so fresh and so painful."
Throughout the decades, Peterson honed his craft and learned some valuable skills while interviewing various politicians, school officials, law enforcement and other guests. He believed that "just being curious" usually lent to a more in-depth and deeply personal approach to storytelling.
"I've been able to make guests feel at ease, or so they claim," he said. "I learned that I can be pretty versatile by learning the most by carrying on a conversation with people from about every field."
Others shared their experiences of working with Peterson as someone who was "professional, cordial and welcoming."
"Him, being the professional, and I'm the amateur, he always made me feel very comfortable and made me feel like the expert," Peterson Jr. said. "He's just an all-around good guy."
'I love you all'
It was a difficult decision, but retiring was the right call in Peterson's eyes. He slowly felt his passion for radio turn into "a job," which was a feeling he was determined to avoid.
"It wasn't as fun as it used to be," he said. "There were some changes in the business, you know what, why not get out now while I'm still fairly young and still do some other things before it becomes a job. ... It was never a job for me. It was very difficult as I've enjoyed the people I worked with, we've grown up together."
For his next step, Peterson plans to hold a part-time job and possibly record a couple audio books. He plans to finish out this season announcing the Rochester Honkers' games, but is unsure whether he'll be back next season. He also plans to travel with his wife.
With that, the perfect closure to his 43-year career in radio came at 10 a.m. on Friday. Peterson's voice broadcasted over the airwaves as he signed off with his final message, reserved for his loyal listeners in Rochester with warmth:
"To you, to all of you who are listening ... I love you all."