San Jose radio legend Bob Kieve dies
San Jose radio legend Bob Kieve is pictured in this file photo. Photo courtesy of the San Jose Rotary Club.

Legendary San Jose radioman Bob Kieve died Sunday, according to his closest family and friends. He was 98.

Kieve owned KLIV radio station since 1967 and served as president of Empire Broadcasting Corp. The longtime radioman shut down KLIV’s operations in Jan. 2019 after more than 70 years on the air. He led the AM station through a series of programming changes, from 70s music to hard rock and eventually an all news station in the 1990s, though it struggled in ratings. He also served as CEO of KRTY, a leading country music station.

Kieve had considered selling KLIV, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, but received only one offer that was too low. In recent years, he was in talks with San Jose officials to gift the station to the city to broadcast City Council meetings and other city-related events.

Kieve, who was born and raised in New York, managed radio stations near Rochester before he was recruited to be one of Eisenhower’s presidential speech writers and worked on his re-election campaign.

Friends say Kieve’s love of people and natural leadership skills led to his involvement in a myriad of Bay Area organizations such as Symphony Silicon Valley, YMCA, Boy Scouts of America and the San Jose Rotary Club, where he served as president.

“He was especially proud of being the president of San Jose Rotary during the debates that led to inviting women to be members,” said Rod Diridon, Sr., one of Kieve’s longtime friends.

Diridon said Kieve left an indelible mark on San Jose and his legacy will forever live on.

“Bob’s life’s impacts will allow him to live on in the many programs that he created and the lives that he made richer by his association,” Diridon said. “We all especially wish his remarkably thoughtful daughter Lenoir peace of mind after this long period of caring for her father. Our hearts go out to her.”

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo in 2018 declared Dec. 8 “Bob Kieve Day” to honor his 51 years of leadership and contributions in the city.

Tributes poured in Sunday from Kieve’s friends and community leaders.

“So sad to hear of the passing of a true legend, fellow San Jose Rotarian and amazing human being: Robert (Bob) Kieve. You will always be remembered with love and appreciation,” Kathleen Thomas posted on Facebook.

Darlene Tenes recalled how Kieve, who usually donned a colorful bowtie, continued working, even into his 90s.

“I’m so sad to hear my favorite man-about-town has passed away. Bob Kieve was a dapper, daring, delightful man who lived an amazing life that impacted so many people,” Tenes posted.

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