Recollections: Remembering Nathan Goetz
By Thom Gerretsen
You may not know Nathan Goetz’s name. But, Marshfield’s longtime residents would certainly know his influence.
Goetz, 92, died Nov. 28 – almost 20 years after he retired from his ownership of 14 Upper Midwest radio stations that included Marshfield’s WDLB-AM and WLJY-FM. Both long identified themselves as Goetz Broadcasting Stations. Nate was the Goetz who started the Goetz Broadcasting Corporation in 1956 from a single station in Maquoketa, IA, and I will always be grateful to him.
Just like former WDLB General Manager Jack Hackman, who died in July, Nate believed in me and offered a world of opportunity. From 1978-99, he allowed me the privilege of reporting news to listeners across central Wisconsin. I loved it so much; I hardly ever considered it to be work.
Nate was a “nuts and bolts” radio man, beginning with his days as an amateur radio operator. I especially gained respect for him in 1980, when he got his hands dirty and helped with the erection of an 800-foot FM antenna north of Milladore. It was Wisconsin’s tallest radio tower at the time, and it spread the sound of WLJY – “Joy 106” back then – for dozens of miles in every direction. When ABC national news commentator Paul Harvey visited Marshfield a number of years later, he was given a tour of that antenna. And, on his 15-minute radio broadcast the following Saturday, Harvey pointed to it as a great source of our company’s pride.
Seeing that Wisconsin has some large population centers in the Milwaukee, Madison, and Fox Valley regions, it might seem hard to believe that Marshfield would headquarter a statewide group of news, sports, and farm networks, but Nate made it possible. And, I had the honor of covering three Super Bowls – two with the Green Bay Packers in the 1990s – plus Major League Baseball’s 2002 All-Star Game in Milwaukee and area visits from U.S. presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton.
Wisconsin farmers found Goetz to be a trusted name when WDLB’s Les Leonard and Bob Meyer were among those lending their voices and agricultural knowledge to the Goetz Farm Radio Network. By the time Nate sold his business and retired in 1999, he had seven regional networks which provided programming to 140 stations.
When I joined Goetz in 1978, Nate lived in Naples, FL. He used to come up for “annual inspections” of his stations, but I wasn’t around for many of those. I didn’t need to be. The rare times I met him, it was clear that he knew me as a broadcaster. He did not ask many questions, but he always let me know how much he appreciated me.
Nate also believed in helping his industry, serving for 18 years as treasurer of the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association. He encouraged others to serve in similar ways, believing it was the right thing to do while helping the quality of our own radio stations. I certainly benefited through my service on the WBA’s Broadcast News Council and the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council. The FOI group had me travel to Madison four times a year, where I also made news contacts at the State Capitol.
I’ve often said that WDLB was far-and-away my favorite place to serve. I was blessed to have so much fun with passionate people who really enjoyed what they were doing. That kind of culture begins, and ends, at the top.
Nathan Goetz was inducted into the Wisconsin Broadcasters Hall of Fame’s second annual class in 1990.
For more on Nathan Goetz visit: WDLB — The early years