Noted journalist, businessman dies

Bob Hauck was well-known for his involvement with radio stations in the Ocala area and for his ‘Florida Factoids’ quiz, among many other accomplishments.

Bob Hauck [Supplied]

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Posted February 9, 2023 | By Susan Smiley-Height

Bob Hauck, one of Ocala’s most endearing, and enduring, members of the media, died Feb. 6 at the age of 83.

Hauck’s “Florida Factoids” quiz has been a popular staple in print copies of the “Ocala Gazette” since October of 2021. The column previously was published in the “Ocala Star-Banner.”

Hauck’s career included starting and managing a number of radio stations in the area, including WMFQ-FM. For a time, he was the executive director of Crime Stoppers, which accepts anonymous tips and offers rewards for information that may lead to an arrest in a crime. He also served on many boards and committees locally. He was an avid golfer and bicyclist, and was an instrument rated private pilot.

Kayrl Hauck, Bob’s wife of 39 years, said he was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, on Oct. 6, 1939. Kayrl, who is a native of Buffalo, New York, said he came to Ocala 60 years ago and she came here 45 years ago. They met in Ocala at the Fontainebleau Racquetball Club and were together for two years before they married.

She said Bob came to Ocala on Aug. 1, 1963, when “he and his partners bought WWKE radio, those weren’t the call letters then, but that’s when they took over the station and it was moved to the old legal building.”

“WWKE played rock n’ roll and if you grew up in Ocala, you would know that. And then in the late ‘80s, I believe, he changed the call letters to WOCA,” she recalled. “Earlier than that, in the early ‘80s, he built the FM station WMFQ. He built it from the ground up. He managed radio stations.”

She said Bob and his partners also were involved with radio stations in Huntington, West Virginia; Asheville, North Carolina; Hartford, Connecticut; and Key West.

“He always ran them, but he had the heart of a salesman. He always, always had the heart of a salesman. That’s what made him so good,” she said, adding that for a time in his early career, he was an on-air personality.

An article in the “Star-Banner” in 2008, noting the history of local radio stations, contained these remarks about Bob Hauck: “It’s worth noting the county’s sixth station, which, in 1977, represented significant growth and radio interest. Hauck established WMFQ-FM after competing for years against other entrepreneurs, lobbying the federal government for the right to the new frequency.”

“It was the only (frequency spot) available for miles and miles around,” Hauck said in the article. “Anybody who knew the growth of the area knew it needed more audio services. It was a plum.”

“Others recognized that trend, too, as the market continued to blossom thereafter,” the article noted.

Dave Schlenker, a longtime local journalist, including with the “Star-Banner” and, currently, with the Gazette and its sister publication, “Ocala Style” magazine, knew Hauck well.

“Bob was a local legend. Always fun, always positive. He helped shape radio in Marion County,” Schlenker said.

“He had such a firm grasp on local history. He really loved it. He was one of Ocala’s biggest personalities,” he added.

Longtime local on-air radio personalities Larry Whitler and Robin MacBlane both have fond memories of Hauck.

“I started working at WMFQ in 1984 and he was the owner of the station. At that time, it was a small FM, and it became a larger, more powerful, FM, a couple of years later. That changed the landscape of the broadcasting in our community greatly,” Whitler said.

“At that time, there were three guys who were the leaders in broadcasting in our community. They were Jim Kirk, Bob Hauck and Vernon Arnette. And they all had their hand in a lot of different things,” he added.

Whitler recalled a humorous story that involved another radio personality and Bob buying a new airplane.

“I was working with a guy named Lee, and I don’t know if that was his real name or his on-air name, because he was AWOL from the Navy. But Lee was a pilot and Bob bought a new airplane, I’m going to say around New Orleans somewhere, and so he had to fly across the Gulf of Mexico. Lee went with him so he could fly the old airplane and Bob would fly his new airplane,” Whitler offered.

“Lee didn’t know how to fly with controls, he had to be able to see the ground, the roads. Bob’s new airplane was faster, and Bob apparently didn’t know that Lee didn’t know how to fly across the Gulf. So, Bob took off and Lee lost him. Lee finally made it Cedar Key and recognized where he was and got back to Ocala,” Whitler said with a chuckle.

Whitler also remembered a time when Hauck made a very generous gesture that stuck with him for many years.

“I had two little jobs at the radio station and didn’t make much money at either. One Christmas, Bob gave me a $100 bonus, which was unheard of at the time. That was a big deal for me, and I never forgot it. He did that several years in a row, but the first year was the year when I needed it the most,” he recalled.

“Bob was always kind,” shared MacBlane. “He always had a smile on his face. He would share his bicycle riding adventures with us because he was an avid bicyclist.”

She also said that Hauck was “a mover in the town.” She recalled his friendship with Walt McKee, of McKee Chrysler Plymouth, and said Bob would often fly Walt to meet with Lee Iacocca. Iacocca was known for developing the Ford Mustang and Continental Mark III while with Ford Motor Company and later was credit with reviving the Chrysler Corporation.

“It Walt needed to do anything else in the car industry over a long distance, Bob would fly him there,” she added.

She also said that Hauck was very “unselfish.”

“He recognized the talents of others. He knew Larry was an artist and one day Larry was at WOCA and Bob came in with this framed picture and newspaper article about Larry. He was sketching at the Ocala Hilton and Bob saw it in the paper and framed it for Larry. That was just one of the unself things that Bob did. He was always aware of what everybody in the community was doing and he would pop in do something really nice and unexpected for them. He was a great guy,” she said.

And, she added, “Bob was always kind and considerate and worked behind the scenes. He was a man to be respected in our community.”

Gerald Ergle is a local businessman, civic leader and former mayor of Ocala.

“I’ve known Bob for years through the community and his associations with the radio stations and so forth. And then, in recent years, he became part of our coffee group and that’s when we became extremely close friends,” Ergle said, referencing a group of locals who regularly meet at Symmetry Coffee in downtown Ocala. “Through our conversations, I knew he loved history, and his knowledge of history stumped me on many of his quizzes. And he loved doing that; he really enjoyed doing those quizzes. I’m going to miss him. He was a great friend.”

Mike Finn, a local builder and former city councilman, also is a member of the “Common Sense Coffee Club, With One Democrat.” He said he knew Hauck for years as well.

“I knew him ever since he hit Ocala. He came here once and then left and came back. He worked for a radio company that had three stations, in Huntington, Ocala and Key West. He came here to run WWKE. It was in the legal building on Pine, with the rock on the side of it,” Finn recalled.

“We were in Jaycees together. He was a fine fellow, just a super guy. He asked me all the time about this and that. We called him our ‘paper boy’ because he’d get us the ‘Gazette’ each week. He’d call me or I’d call him and tell him how I did on the quiz and I’d kind of argue with him on some of the answers because I’ve lived here all my life. We all enjoyed that quiz, we really did,” Finn added.

Bob Hauck’s athleticism was evident early in life, as was his interest in journalism.

“He went to Ohio University for journalism. He was on a football scholarship,” Kayrl Hauck noted.

His love of remaining active physically extended to other pursuits.

“He loved golf, but he never mastered it. I guess many of us have not,” she stated, “but he was an avid handball player. As he got older, he began to bicycle. You would see him out bicycling early in the morning. He did about 20 miles a day.”

She said her husband “was on a lot of boards. He was the vice president at the CFCC Foundation and was the person who did the very first Taste of Ocala at the mall. He served several terms as chairman of the Ocala Planning & Zoning committee. He was on the airport board. He was founding member of the Ocala Advertising Federation. He was an Elks Club member for a number of years, probably one of the longest time members there. And he ran Crime Stoppers. After Crime Stoppers, when he decided to retire, that’s when he focused on ‘Florida Factoids.’”

The couple, who did not have children, were avid travelers.

“We loved to travel. I will say we have visited every continent except Australia. We have been very fortunate to travel all over the world,” Kayrl said.

The Haucks are parishioners at Blessed Trinity Catholic Church. Kayrl, who taught French at Trinity Catholic High School, said with a laugh that they did have “fur kids.”

“We have four Bichone Frise dogs. I’m a French teacher, so we had to have a French dog,” she said.

Kayrl said a celebration of life for her “sweetheart” will be held from 4 to 7 p.m. Feb. 20, at the Appleton Museum of Art.

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