Bel Lange, a pioneering Sacramento broadcaster who hosted a popular outdoor recreation show on Channel 13 (KOVR) for 28 years, died April 1 from blood clots in his lungs, his family said. He was 88.
The son of a minister, Mr. Lange played basketball and announced play-by-play coverage for a local radio station while attending a Lutheran college in Milwaukee. He graduated from Concordia Lutheran Seminary in St. Louis and spent a year as a church vicar before leaving the pulpit for a bigger audience working at an Illinois TV station.
He worked in broadcasting in the Bay Area before settling in Stockton, where he helped launch KOVR on the air in 1954. Starting as an announcer, he moved with KOVR to Sacramento and climbed the ranks to lead the station as general manager.
He also hosted a weekly TV show, "The Outdoorsman," based on his outings as a hunter, fisherman, hiker, camper and nature guide. The program, which was one of the first in the Sacramento market to specialize in reporting features and tips for outdoor enthusiasts, won a 1955 Emmy as best sports show in Northern California.
Mr. Lange filmed most of the 30-minute shows himself with a 16-millimeter home movie camera, said his son, Bel III. He drew viewers with stories about outdoor recreational activities set in popular fishing spots, hunting grounds, hiking trails and campsites in Northern California and Nevada. He opened his shows with trivia questions about the outdoors that became known as "Bel's Bafflers," which he also published as a book. He closed each night with a reminder to viewers to "take time to enjoy the great outdoors."
"He came across as a regular guy you might see sitting next to you on a dock or in a boat on the lake," said Mitch Agruss, a veteran actor who was "Captain Delta" on a KOVR children's show in the 1960s. "He was a folksy guy who hunted and fished and did all those things outdoors. He practiced what he preached."
Mr. Lange grew his reputation in the outdoor recreation industry after leaving KOVR in 1982. Besides reporting and answering questions on radio call-in shows, he opened a popular sporting goods store in Fair Oaks that was named for his TV show.
He sponsored fishing contests and was a regular vendor at trade shows. He started a sports travel agency and organized recreational tours in the United States and Canada.
Belno Roy Lange Jr. grew up with love of the outdoors. Born in 1924 on an Indian reservation in Colome, S.D., he was one of five children raised by a Lutheran minister and homemaker. He graduated from Concordia College with plans to follow his father's career path before choosing a career in broadcasting.
He had four children with his wife of 61 years, the former Marjorie Hansen, who died in 2009. He was active in many Lutheran organizations and lived in Cameron Park before moving to Fair Oaks several years ago.
"His personality was tied to his love of the outdoors," his son said. "If he could get that love across and explain it to you, he was happy."
Bel Lange Born: May 28, 1924 Died: April 1, 2013 Survived by: Children, Starlayne Fox of Anaheim, Bel III of Orangevale, Jinee Sargent of Folsom, Jorie Baer of Orangevale; sister, Karen Madden of The Villages, Fla.; five grandchildren Services: 2 p.m. Sunday at Light of the Hills Lutheran Church, 3100 Rodeo Road, Cameron Park
Call The Bee's Robert D. Dávila, (916) 321-1077. Follow him on Twitter @bob_davila.