(January 7, 2010) Last weekend, the family and friends of Rod (Ralph) Van Hook shared their sentiments at a Celebration of Life ceremony at the Pacific Palisades Presbyterian Church. A number of his sports talk colleagues told stories about their relationship with Rod from 710/KMPC to KFWB to KSPN days.
Joe McDonnell recalled the early days at KMPC. “It was like meeting an idol and we became instant friends,” said Joe. For Joe their relationship went far beyond sports. “We would talk politics and music. Sports was like the third or fourth thing.”
One of the themes that wove through all of the speakers was Rod’s love for his two kids, Kelsey and Chance. Joe remembered: “One time the phone rang as Rod prepared to do a sports update at KSPN. He asked us to stretch the segment so he could talk with Kelsey. ‘I want to talk with her,’ he would say.”
Rod worked sports at all-News KFWB for over two decades. “He loved KFWB,” Joe said. “I promised the then-KFWB general manager Roger Nadel that I wouldn’t steal anybody when I went to KSPN except for one person. Rod was the first person I hired. He really didn’t want to leave but I cajoled him with more money to join KSPN. Rod was the best sportscaster this town has ever seen. I miss him a lot.”
Long-time KFWB head of engineering Richard Rudman remembered that Rod joined KFWB about two years after the station moved from the Hollywood Blvd studios to Yucca and Argyle (the old Safeway building). “My office was located about 20 feet from the sports desk and through the glass I had a plain view of Rod. When I heard that Rod had died, my very first crystal clear image was that of Rod presiding over the sports desk at :15 and :45 – a distince image of a clear, concise and authoritative style of his sports reports. His love for sports was communicated clearly in every report I heard. When he left KFWB in 2000, I really missed hearing his voice outside my office. I still miss it today.”
KFWB’s Bill Seward, who also is seen on KNBC/Channel 4, remarked about his love for his alma mater, UCLA. In the program for the services, Bill quoted the line: “Even though he loved the Bruins you would never know it from his reporting.” And then Bill added, “Ah c’mon,” which got a big laugh from the audience.
Even though Seward worked at KNX during part of his career, he paid Rod a high compliment. “He was the guy on the other side that I would listen to because I knew I would get the story from him. Rod had the ability to present scores and stories and make sense of it in :60 or :90. He was always able to make an impression in a short period of time.”
“Rod was, and I’m telling you this from the bottom of my heart,” said Fox Sports’ Dave Stone, “of all the people I ever worked with in radio over 35 years I have admired him and his professionalism as much as anybody I ever worked with. Rod was every bit a pro. He adored his children and he was so proud of them.”
Andy Ludlum, Richard Rudman, John Brooks and Fran Brooks
KFWB’s Ted Sobel opened by saying, “This is happening twenty years before its time. I’ve never known anyone who loved his kids more than Rod did.” Ted and Rod were golf buddies for 25 years. “We had more laughs. And he would talk about Kelsey all the time and I never met you until today. We all have friends for different reasons and Rod and I didn’t have a lot in common in many ways but we both loved golf and we were in the same business. His passions in sports were the Bruins and the Lakers.”
David Vassegh is a sports talk producer. “You liked Rod instantly when you met him,” said David. “That’s the way it felt when I first met him because he was just a genuine person. We got along because we always kept it light, sharing what was going on in our lives. We could laugh for two or three hours. He was one of the best in this business that I ever knew. I will miss him.”
Music played a part in Rod’s Celebration of Life. Early in the ceremony there was a montage of his favorite music, mostly from the 70s, including his favorite singer Warren Zevon. A soloist sang Let It Be and the congregation sang Amazing Grace. The services ended with the playing of Warren Zevon’s Keep Me in Your Heart.
Following the ceremony there was a reception/lunch at the church where other radio colleagues shared stories about Rod. Also attending from the world of LARP: former KFWBer Kelly Whelihan, mother of Chance; former KFWB morning anchor Dan Avey; KFWB/KNX pd Andy Ludlum; CBS’ Steve Futterman; KFWB’s Sue Stiles and Gaylene Lowinger; and KNX’s Fran and John Brooks. (Photo is Dan Avey and Dave Stone. Additional photos in subscription site)