By Cali Owings, Published November 26 2013
Former KFGO radio personality Larry Ristvedt diesFARGO – Larry Ristvedt, a longtime KFGO agriculture broadcaster and radio personality who suffered in recent years from ALS, died Tuesday morning. He was 71.
Ristvedt was one-half of KFGO’s popular “Tom and Larry Show,” with partner Tom Wynn, until he retired in 2010. But he also was known for his many entrepreneurial ventures outside the station, such as Uncle Larry’s Lemonade and Beef Shtix sold at F-M RedHawks games.
Ristvedt grew up in Moorhead and graduated from the Moorhead School District in 1960. He attended Moorhead State University before enlisting in the Air Force. After four years, he returned to Moorhead State, where he earned a degree in economics.
He worked as a commodities broker before joining KFGO in 1976 as a farm broadcaster.
Known for his humor on the air, wife Susan Ristvedt said that’s just how Larry was all of the time.
“In 35 years of marriage, I only ever saw him mad one time,” she said. Naturally, she said she cracked up and started laughing.
KFGO Operations Manager Joel Heitkamp said the longstanding “Tom and Larry Show” was like “waking up with a friend.”
“That’s why people called him ‘Uncle Larry,’” Heitkamp said Tuesday. “A lot of people saw him as a member of their family.”
Heitkamp said people like Ristvedt, who worked at the station for 34 years, helped build the station’s foundation.
Though Ristvedt was fighting ALS, Heitkamp said he remained at the station for as long as he possibly could before he retired three years ago.
Friends and family described Ristvedt as an entrepreneur always looking for his next big idea. He’s credited for re-naming the Red River Valley Agri-Business Equipment and Service Exhibition to “Big Iron.” He brought Uncle Larry’s Lemonade to RedHawks games and created his own brand of beef sticks. He also penned the “North Dakota Blackjack Book” and developed a novelty flipping coin he called his “pocket analyst.” The coin had a bull on one side and a bear on the other – the “decision-maker in your pants.”
Colleague and fellow broadcaster Sandy Buttweiler recalled hosting the local Children’s Miracle Network Telethon with Ristvedt. She said he was the “heart and soul” of the broadcast, which he co-hosted for 26 years.
One year, while trying to raise funds for transporting newborns to the hospitals, Buttweiler recalled Ristvedt saying “You know, you can’t throw the kid in the backseat of the Chevy.”
That line defines Larry, she said, because “he could make it so human.”
“Everyone who knew Larry felt they were special to him, and that’s a gift,” she added.
Ristvedt started showing symptoms of ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease) in 2007, his wife said. He went into the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Fargo about three weeks ago.
Though the disease took away his voice and his ability to walk, family and friends said he never complained.
“Even when he couldn’t do all of those things, he could still smile,” Rich Ristvedt said Tuesday, recalling the light in his father’s eyes. He said he never lost his unique manner of speaking and turn of phrase.
Ristvedt is survived by his wife, son and daughter, Trish.
Service arrangements for Larry Ristvedt are not yet finalized.
Readers can reach Forum reporter
Cali Owings at (701) 241-5599