The 100-year veteran reads Raleigh’s Blind every week

RALEIGH, NC (AP) — Every Wednesday morning at 10 am, Bob Kruger rolls his walker into the studio, collapses into a comfortable chair and begins reading the paper in his hoarse voice — a 100-year-old radio star with an audience that raves from every word.

He flips through the clippings he’ll read on the air: Emperor penguins now endangered, British Prime Minister’s resignation, North Carolina State Fair draws crowds. He even reads the grocery ads because his audience—all blind or partially sighted—want to know if chicken thighs are on sale.

“When I do the obituaries,” he says, “I always apologize in advance if I mispronounce the person’s name. Let’s face it: we all like to hear our own names.”

Kruger, who celebrated 100 years on Earth this year, has been broadcasting for the nonprofit NC Reading Service in Raleigh since 1985 – long enough for two generations of blind listeners to know his voice.

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He and his on-air partner Jeanne Latshaw get fan calls from as far away as Florida, and sometimes “fangirls” ask Latshaw to introduce the man who’s spent 37 years behind the mic awaiting his intro music.

“My husband says, ‘You’re just a vehicle to get to Bob,'” jokes Latshaw.

At 100, Kruger has enough sanity to remember the date he enlisted in the US Navy — January 17, 1942 — and the dessert he and first wife Vivian enjoyed on their first date: Honeydew melon and ice cream.

“I didn’t wear glasses at the time,” he says, “but I chose the prettiest ones.”

He casually rattles off the adventures of a novel in a few biographical phrases, telling the curious that he served aboard the USS Bogue during World War II and claimed 10 German submarines.

All without smoking a single cigarette.

He remembers how, at a post-war reunion, he met a survivor of one of the U-boats he helped sink and discovered that his former enemy had relocated to England and become a football star.

And he recalls how one day, after retiring from a 40-year career as a meat cutter, he was strolling through Raleigh and chanced upon a fellow professor from NC State University.

‘DO SOMETHING POSITIVE’

This friend suggested that Kruger might enjoy telling a few stories on the radio after living a few thousand himself, and how important his words were to people who might not otherwise be able to get them.

“I tell people it’s my calling,” says Kruger. “I’ll tell them, laughing, that I have seniority.”

He cuts each News & Observer article with scissors, starting with the odd pages and ending with the even ones. Sometimes he mixes up the jump pages, a mistake any aging editor would understand.

He can recall the N&O failure to deliver to the townhouse on Wake Forest Road where NC Reading Service has its studio, forcing him to run across the street and buy a copy at the Kroger.

Perhaps he stumbles upon an occasional memory. He may have lost two wives to cancer, but he married a third, Doris. He may have to talk himself onto his treadmill, but he usually has the willpower.

“Every day is a gift,” he says. “I get up every morning and promise myself that I will do something positive. Unfortunately, some days it doesn’t happen.”

He makes a fitting voiceover for the world out there, delivering their news in a relaxed voice and turning the page behind the bad stuff in hopes of a nice surprise.

For the sentimental, the North Carolina Reading Service offers a toaster-sized “Barix Box” that looks a bit like a transistor radio and streams its shows 24 hours a day.

For copyright information, please contact the distributor of this article, The News & Observer.

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