Nevada County radio personality George Rath dies at age 62
Special to The Union
George Rath, a mainstay on local AM and FM radio stations for more than three decades, died Monday.
Rath had undergone shoulder surgery at a small Auburn hospital Monday, and friends took him to his Alta Sierra home afterward. When they checked on him later, he was unresponsive.
Rath had just celebrated his 62nd birthday June 4.
He needed surgery after falling down a stairway and tearing tendons in his left shoulder. He posted to his Facebook page June 9: “I’m having to take some time off for shoulder surgery. Rotator cuff stuff. But it’s amazing what our bodies do thanks to our amazing Creator… I will be back. Blessings friends!!!”
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Rath was just 21 when he started his radio career with Nevada County Broadcasters, the company that owns KNCO AM and K94 FM. While playing records at a roller rink in Carmichael, Rath was “discovered” and hired by the company’s founder. Rath helped compile the station’s music library — albums and 45’s — and was one of seven staff members when the AM station went on the air October 9, 1978. Rath played music from 1 p.m. until sign off at dusk.
Mike Dobbins, editor of Wildwood Independent, worked with Rath in the early days.
“He had a marvelous voice, a great sense of humor, and no ‘mic fright’ at all,” said Dobbins, who was then a news announcer. “I’d be in the middle of an important story and he was trying to figure out how to make me laugh in the middle of my newscast.”
In later years, KNCO radio personality Tom Fitzsimmons worked the AM side of KNCO radio while Rath anchored the FM side, which became known as K94 Hot Country.
“George was ‘Mr. Show Biz,’” said Fitzsimmons. “He was big time. When I was brand new with no radio experience, he was one of the guys who took me under his wing. He taught me to speak a certain way with rhythm and depth of voice. He was a consummate pro.
“George was an imperfect human being, who through God’s grace, helped others.”
Rath was program director at the radio station when he hired “Rocket Rich” Brock to be music director in 1984.
“George took me under his wing, showed me the town and the community, and helped me get comfortable and assimilated,” said Brock. “Then we had this friendship that took off. I can’t imagine life going forward without George in it.”
The local radio station was a revolving door for Rath, as he left and returned five times before taking a job at Rocklin-based K-LOVE Christian Radio in 2009. There he served as a news writer, producer and anchor. He was an overnight announcer whose show was broadcast coast-to-coast and around the world.
Dan Miller, Third District Nevada County Supervisor, was Rath’s friend and admirer for three decades.
“I knew him through our church, the radio station, plus we played softball together,” said Miller. “George was one of those people you felt comfortable around because he was always laughing and in a good mood. He never got rattled. He was passionate about his work. He had one of best radio voices I’ve ever heard. This hits too close to home.”
Listeners shared their fond memories of Rath as well.
“George was that guy who would do anything to help another,” said Gina Meyer. “The guy who would give away front row seats at concerts to people he didn’t know. The guy who would call you up just to check on you. The guy who never had an unkind thing to say about anyone.”
“He was funny, smart, always honest, and knew everyone in town,” said listener Karen Campbell.
Rath had been deeply involved in Twin Cities Church since becoming a member in 2001.
“People like George Rath carve a huge swath through the memories we carry in our minds and hearts,” said Twin Cities Church Pastor Ron Thompson. “We’ll miss his smile and encouraging words. But the thing I will remember most about George is how he processed his regret over choices he made in his past. Out of these difficulties, he committed himself to becoming man of integrity and character.
“He was open about his brokenness which allowed him to talk freely about the grace of God he experienced personally through his relationship with Jesus.”
“George primarily did drama: acting, directing and writing, recording voice-overs and sound engineer,” said David Bollen, Worship Arts Pastor, in an email message. “George was a very gifted performer with an incredible sense of comic timing, and he loved to cut-up and laugh. George had a huge servant’s heart and was always willing to help and give of his time and talent. George was a man who loved God as first priority.”
Gil Mathew performed the religious comedy “Fish Eyes” with Rath more than 100 times over the past 10 years. They first presented the two-man play at Twin Cities Church, then other local churches, and eventually took the show on the road to Texas, Missouri, Washington and Oregon.
“We portrayed Peter and Andrew, brothers who Jesus selected as disciples,” said Mathew. “We became brothers through that. George and I used to wash each other’s feet before a performance because that’s what Jesus did for his disciples, and we were disciples to each other.”
Funeral services will be held 11 a.m. June 22 at Twin Cities Church.
Lorraine Jewett is a freelance writer who lives in Nevada County. She can be reached at LorraineJewettWrites@gmail.com.
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