Dean Adraktas, a broadcast journalist who was a news reporter at KFBK until his voice on the air was silenced by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, died Aug. 28, his wife said. He was 49.
With a booming voice, outgoing personality and enthusiasm for covering breaking stories, Mr. Adraktas advanced steadily in radio news. He began working at KVNA in Flagstaff, Ariz., and KFYI in Phoenix after earning a broadcast communications degree from Arizona State University in 1987. He moved to South Lake Tahoe in 1992 and was a reporter, talk show host and news director for KOWL/KRLT.
His thorough reporting, meticulous writing and fun sense of humor impressed colleagues at KQMS radio in Redding, where he was a news director and morning news anchor from 1995 to 1998. He moved to Sacramento to work at KFBK and covered a variety of stories as a morning reporter, including social issues and politics.
“He was very professional but very gregarious,” KFBK news anchor Kitty O’Neal said. “He took his work very seriously, but he interacted with people very easily. He had a great sense of humor and was very vital.”
A big, athletic man who enjoyed powerlifting, running and biking, Mr. Adraktas recalled the first subtle sign that something was wrong with his body in a 2003 story in The Sacramento Bee. It happened while he was sitting on a sofa at home after walking his dogs.
“All of a sudden, my neck began to twitch,” he said. “Later, my hands and shoulder muscles began to twitch.”
In December 1999, little more than a year after he married Katherine Behm on the shore of Lake Tahoe, Mr. Adraktas was diagnosed with ALS, a progressive, fatal disease that destroys nerve cells responsible for muscles that control walking, talking and breathing. He continued working until problems with speaking forced him to leave KFBK in March 2000.
Along with his wife, he supported fundraising efforts for ALS and appeared on Muscular Dystrophy Association telethons. In recent years, he enjoyed reading and studying American history, World War II, astronomy, architecture and philosophy.
As his body deteriorated, “He was never depressed or bitter,” his wife said. “He was never a pessimist. He felt that God had given him the opportunity to do all that he had done, and he had a great life.”
The son of a Greek immigrant, Dean James Adraktas was born in 1965 in Eagle River, Wis., and moved with his family to Mesa, Ariz. He was a defensive tackle on his high school football team and squatted 505 pounds as a powerlifter at ASU.
Besides his professionalism as a journalist, colleagues recalled his love of telling jokes and poking fun at himself. He told The Bee that he had considered being an engineer, “But all my friends wanted me to go into broadcasting, because I had such a big mouth.”
Video and audio recordings featuring Mr. Adraktas are posted on YouTube at www.youtube.com/user/kdrakk/videos.
In addition to his wife, he is survived by his parents, James and Joan; and three sisters, Connie, Stephanie and Victoria.
A visitation/memorial is set for 5 to 7:45 p.m. today at Russ Monroe’s Funeral Home, 7960 Winding Way, Fair Oaks. A funeral is set for 11 a.m. Thursday at St. Anna Greek Orthodox Church, 1001 Stone Canyon Drive, Roseville.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Dean Adraktas Fund at ALS.net, the ALS Association Greater Sacramento Chapter or St. Anna Greek Orthodox Church.