Veteran local broadcaster known as “Captain Jim” dies at 88

FARGO - Jim Rohn, whose broadcasting career on the airwaves in North Dakota and Minnesota spanned almost seven decades, died Monday at age 88. Rohn got his start in 1946 on the radio at KSJB-AM in Jamestown following his service in World War II. ...
Jim Rohn as "Oompa Jim" on "Polka Time" at Fargo-Moorhead's KXJB-TV. Photo submitted by David Vagle, general manager of the Alexandria stations.

FARGO – Jim Rohn, whose broadcasting career on the airwaves in North Dakota and Minnesota spanned almost seven decades, died Monday at age 88.

Rohn got his start in 1946 on the radio at KSJB-AM in Jamestown following his service in World War II.

After a few years, he moved to Fargo when sister station KXJB-TV was launched, where he was a fixture for many years as a weatherman, among other roles.

He was known to viewers who grew up in the 1950s and 1960s as “Captain Jim,” his persona in a children’s show, a name that stuck among viewers of a certain age for years afterward.

Rohn also hosted “Polka Party” on Saturdays, dressed in a Bavarian lederhosen outfit.

“He was a real character,” said Al Aamodt, a veteran broadcaster at KVLY and KXJB’s Valley News Live.

“That nice persona that the viewers saw on television was the same way he was off the air,” said Aamodt, whose first TV news job was at KXJB in the early 1970s. “Just a great guy.”

And a consummate professional, Aamodt added. “He could read the copy cold and not make a mistake, and he was so versatile.”

Rohn’s career took him to KCMT-TV in Alexandria, Minn., in 1972, where he worked as a weatherman for 18 years. He returned to his radio roots in 1990, when he joined the morning team at KIKV-FM, where he stayed until retiring in December 2014.

“He loved coming to work every day, but his age and his health caught up with him,” Dave Vagle, general manager at KIKV-FM said Wednesday.

Rohn’s decades on the airwaves, and the connections he made with viewers and listeners, made him a revered figure to many.

“Between Fargo and Alexandria he’s an institution, without a doubt,” Vagle said.

Serving during World War II as a radioman on fighter-bombers base on the U.S.S. Saratoga, Rohn suffered serious hearing loss and had to use hearing aids, Vagle said.

Rohn, who grew up in Alsen, N.D., enlisted at age 16 with his parents’ consent, he said.

 Rohn was inducted into the Minnesota Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 2004. Throughout the years, he contributed thousands of hours to charities, Vagle said.

In 1990, Rohn served a brief stint as a weatherman back at KXJB-TV, before joining KIKV-FM.

“I have great respect and admiration for the man,” said Dave Hoglin, who was news director at KXJB.

After retiring last year, Rohn moved to Fargo, where he lived in an assisted living center. His wife, Lois, preceded him in death.

A memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. Jan. 17 at Hanson-Runsvold Funeral Home, 215 7th St. S., Fargo. In lieu of flowers, memorials can be made to the Douglas County Library in Alexandria.