Obituary: On-air editorials made Cal Bollwinkel, 88, ‘the face of’ Channel 40’ in Sacramento

Published: Wednesday, Apr. 23, 2014 - 9:38 pm
Last Modified: Wednesday, Apr. 23, 2014 - 11:22 pm

Cal Bollwinkel, a popular broadcaster who was widely recognized as “the face of Channel 40” for his signature on-air editorials at KTXL, died April 17 of complications from myelofibrosis, a bone marrow disorder that affects blood cell reproduction, his family said. He was 88.

Mr. Bollwinkel, who spent more than a half-century in broadcasting, worked at KXTV Channel 10 in Sacramento before joining KTXL as program manager in 1978. He also served as operations manager and helped steer Channel 40 from its roots as a locally owned, independent station to a high-profile Fox network affiliate.

He was best known to viewers for editorial segments that he helped produce twice a week for broadcast during the day and on evening newscasts. With a calm presence, warm voice and reassuring manner, he provided on-screen commentary on mostly local issues during the 1980s and 1990s.

“I was supposed to write things that would get people irritated, because that’s what the guy who owned the station wanted,” former KTXL editorial director Michael Messmer said. “But when Cal delivered them, they always came out sounding so reasonable that it was hard for people to disagree. I was always getting blamed for not writing editorials that were hard enough.”

Mr. Bollwinkel, who retired from KTXL in 1999, also was visible as a civic volunteer. Besides serving as president of the local chapter of the American Cancer Society and the Comstock Club, he was on the boards of Methodist Hospital and the Sacramento chapter of the California Conservation Corps. He was active with the Society for the Blind and Sacramento Job Corps.

“Even when he was a DJ, he’d be out all over the place and was really well known in the community,” his son Paul said. “He wanted to give back however he could. He was very outgoing and he really cared about people.”

Calvin Arthur Bollwinkel was born April 30, 1925, in New York and raised in New Jersey. He left Michigan State University to join the Army and fought in the Pacific during World War II. He returned to finish his broadcasting degree and married another student, Julia Stewart, in 1950.

Starting in radio at a small station in upstate New York, he gained extensive broadcasting experience in a variety of jobs in the East and Midwest and was a popular disc jockey at WOWO, a 50,000-watt powerhouse in Fort Wayne, Indiana, that reached throughout the Midwest. With a smooth, deep voice and a love of music, he built a successful career as the popular sound of the day changed from big band to rock ‘n’ roll.

“He loved the Beatles and Burt Bacharach,” his son said, “but he started with Benny Goodman as a kid.”

Mr. Bollwinkel transitioned into television at KYW in Philadelphia. He moved to California in 1967, worked at KPIX in San Francisco and spent nine years at KXTV Channel 10.

In addition to an Emmy nomination for his on-air editorials, he received the Silver Circle Award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. He was a popular industry figure and an active member of Valley Broadcast Legends, which established a scholarship fund in his name.

“He was very well respected and liked by everybody in the Sacramento community,” former KXTV production manager Dick Leeson said. “He was a man with a very big heart.”

Besides his wife of 64 years and his son Paul, Mr. Bollwinkel is survived by another son, Mark; two daughters, Karen Drake and Jan Bollwinkel-Smith; and five grandchildren.

A celebration of his life is set for 2 p.m. May 10 at St. Mark’s United Methodist Church, 2391 St. Marks Way, Sacramento. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the American Cancer Society, Society for the Blind or a nonprofit organization.


Call The Bee’s Robert D. Dávila, (916) 321-1077. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Davila.

Read more articles by Robert D. Dávila



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