David Herman Knutson was a pillar in his community, an innovative broadcast executive, and an inductee into the Minnesota Broadcasting Hall of Fame. Dave spent most of his life in northwestern Minnesota, leaving a mark that was felt far and wide. He passed away peacefully on July 21, 2019 at age 90.
Dave entered the radio business in 1956 when he joined KDLM-AM in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, as the station’s sales manager. He intended to give the business a three-month trial but stayed in radio for the remainder of his professional life. In 2008, he was enshrined into the Minnesota Broadcasting Hall of Fame.
While radio was where he made his professional imprint, he will also be remembered for a life of service. It began in June of 1946 when Dave was 17 and joined the U.S. Navy. He served in the Pacific Theater for two years on the U.S.S. Bronx (APA-236) as part of a crew returning American soldiers stateside at the end of World War II. When he completed his tour of duty, Dave earned an Associate in Arts degree at the University of Minnesota.
Dave was born on August 23, 1928 in Crookston, Minnesota to Herman and Emma (Kelley) Knutson. He met the love of his life, Henriette (Henri) LaPlante in 1949 and the couple married in Crookston in 1950, beginning their long life together. Before his radio career, Dave was employed by Standard Oil of Indiana, working out of Crookston, Duluth, and finally Detroit Lakes, which would become home for Dave and Henri the rest of their lives.
In a successful radio career, Dave eventually became General Manager of KDLM and its sister station, KVLR-FM. One of his notable innovations came in the early 1960s, when Dave arranged for the live broadcast of the famous Pine-to-Palm golf tournament using radio equipment borrowed from the National Guard. Those broadcasts continue to this day. Dave later became a partner in the station’s parent company, Leighton Enterprises. He took great pride in guiding young professionals to successful careers in the broadcast business. Many of those who learned under him later became owners or managers of their own stations.
Dave also recognized the value of community service and was heavily involved in a number of organizations. Along with being a Little League manager, Dave joined the Jaycees, became its president and was later named admiral of the Detroit Lakes Water Carnival. Dave was a faithful member of Rotary for more than 50 years, also serving as President of the Detroit Lakes chapter. He was part of a Rotary group that helped design an ice golf course on Little Detroit Lake one winter to host a unique fundraising event. He and other Rotarians also took a horse-drawn chariot to a goodwill meeting in Winnipeg where they were presented the Canadian flag by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. As part of Rotary, Dave promoted a blood-screening program in cooperation with St. Mary’s Hospital.
Dave also served two terms as President of the Detroit Lakes Chamber of Commerce and was Chairman of the Retail Committee for downtown businesses. He earned the Distinguished Service Award from the Junior Chamber of Commerce in 1963. In addition, he served on the boards of Bremer Bank, St. Mary’s Hospital, the Boys and Girls Club, and the Salvation Army where he helped organize bell ringers during the holiday season. Dave headed the local chapter of AFS for foreign exchange students. He was also a member of the American Legion and Elks Club and belonged to the Sons of Norway, a heritage that always held great meaning for him. He proudly flew both the American and Norwegian flags at their lake home on East Shore Drive. He and Henri were longtime members of the Detroit Lakes Country Club and the DL Community and Cultural Center. Dave was also a member of the 10:00 men’s coffee group that continues meeting to this day.
Dave is survived by his wife Henri, his son Bill Knutson (Chris) of Sun Lakes, Arizona, daughter Gayle Knutson (Jim Maher) of Marine on St. Croix, Minnesota; grandchildren Kelley Knutson, John Knutson and Casey Maher; great grandchildren Georgia and Audrey Knutson; sisters Judy Ann Jilderda and Mary Lee Thorson, and many nieces and nephews. Dave was preceded in death by his father, Herman Knutson and his mother, Emma (Kelley) Knutson.
The Knutson family would like to extend a special thanks to the staff in the Transitional Care and Memory Care units at Ecumen, and the team from Hospice of the Red River Valley, including Mort the hospice cat.
Funeral services will be held on Friday, July 26, 11:00am, at David Donehower Funeral Home, 609 U.S. Highway 10 East in Detroit Lakes, with visitation beginning at 10:00. Lunch and internment will follow the service. Memorials preferred to Hospice of the Red River Valley.