Bob Gleason charmed TV viewers

Robert "Bob" Gleason, a television broadcast pioneer in the Seattle-Tacoma area, viewed with regret the changes in his profession the past 25 years.

The tall, laid-back former news anchor and panel-show host preferred the humanity and occasional humor of live broadcasting and the chance to fill a variety of roles.

He was the on-air voice for Heidelberg Beer. He also did the cartoon voice of "That Little Old Winemaker, Me" in wine commercials.

"He was amazed at all the technological changes, where they automate things until you have radio shows with nobody there," said daughter Robin Friend. "He liked watching television in later years, especially political shows and Mariner baseball. But he was a hands-on guy."

In the early days, he did weather, news and shows featuring celebrities such as former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, Democratic presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson, then-actor Ronald Reagan and then-astronaut John Glenn.

In the 1960s, he covered civil-rights struggles.

Mr. Gleason died Sunday (Sept. 10) of lymphoma. He was 80.

An avid dancer and singer of pop songs, he particularly had liked emceeing "Deck Dances" - a social-dance show broadcast from a cruise ship on the waterfront during the 1962 Seattle World's Fair.

"In the days when everything was live, nothing ever threw him," said former KTNT producer-director Paul Herlinger. "Bob would say, `It's only television - we'll get out of it.

"He was easygoing and real pleasant to work with. He was unassuming and modest in real life, and that came across on the air when he did talent work. What you saw was what you got. It endeared him to viewers and enhanced the image of the station."

Born in Butte, Mont., Mr. Gleason moved with his family to Seattle during the Depression. As a teen, he played jazz trumpet and sang in the Jackson Street-Pioneer Square area. He also played semi-professional baseball in Seattle and, before World War II, hoped to turn professional.

Mr. Gleason spent most of the war as a Navy radio man aboard a submarine chaser in the Pacific.

Afterward, he launched his career as a disc jockey at KBRO radio in Bremerton. There he made several recordings that made the pop charts. They included the ballad "Christmas Wish" and the Western novelty tune "Sheriff in the Posse."

In 1953, he joined the on-air talent at Tacoma's new CBS affiliate, KTNT, renamed KSTW when the station changed hands in 1974.

He interviewed many celebrities during his stint on the KTNT-TV panel show, "Exposure."

He retired from broadcasting in 1985 and spent more time golfing near his home in Browns Point.

"He always told us kids his main goal was to leave the world a little better place for having passed by," his daughter said. "We think he did. We try to do that, too, because of him."

Also surviving are daughter Patricia Bowen, three grandchildren, two step-grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Mr. Gleason was married 48 years to Dorothy Gleason, who died in 1994.

A funeral Mass was said at St. Patrick Catholic Church in Tacoma.

Donations may go to Franciscan Hospice, 1717 S. J St., Tacoma, WA 98405, or to the Southern Poverty Law Center, 400 Washington Ave., Montgomery, AL 36104.

Carole Beers' e-mail address is