Western South Dakota's Only Ranch Station

KBHB Radio pioneer and former legislator Marguerite Kleven passes away

STURGIS, SD – It was always a man’s world in broadcasting.

Still, every now and then there’s a trail blazer who creates a path. Not by bulldozing their way through. But just by being there. Quietly. Consistently. Working.

Long-time Sturgis, SD resident Marguerite Kleven, a former radio station owner, manager and broadcaster is one such person. She died Sunday night at the age of 91. A former educator and a state legislator, she was a partner with husband Les Kleven in stations located in Minnesota, South Dakota and North Dakota.

Listen or read any part of KBHB Radio’s history, oral or written, and the references are, “And then there was Marguerite at the front desk.” Or, “Marguerite was the office greeter,” or “Marguerite covered the phones.”

She was so much more. Long-time KBHB staffer Chris Kaitfors, remembers.

“I would describe Marguerite as a quiet presence. She was very diplomatic. She complimented Les in her own way. He would come blustering into a room, bigger than life and then Marguerite would add her calm diplomacy to every situation. She never lost her cool.”

Kaitfors adds, “She wasn’t afraid to try anything.  She would step in if anybody happened to be out of the office and we needed help.”

The year was 1962. Les and Marguerite decided to begin a station in Sturgis.  On September 27, 1962, a call was received from the FCC in Washington, D.C. granting permission to begin service to the community.  At 3:00pm on that day,  the microphones were opened with the first broadcast.  It was a short crew in those days, broadcasting out of a small building near downtown Sturgis at the time, recalls Gene Walter, the station’s first announcer.

“Les had his office, Marguerite was out front as a greeter and secretary, (she kept the thing running actually),  and Dana Caldwell,  who was the sales director, the program manager and the janitor.  The first song played on KBHB was “Alley Cat”. I know this because I was the one who spun the record.”

Dana Caldwell says Marguerite was, “well-respected by her fellow broadcasters,” along with being, “a very savvy state legislator.” Following the passing of husband Les in 1995, Marguerite replaced him as a South Dakota State Senator, serving until 2004. She was on the Appropriations Committee and also chair of the Government Operations and Audit Committee. Her involvement in local and state politics along with civic, municipal and church organizations range from Precinct Committeeperson for Meade County Republicans to a member of the Lutheran Social Services Board to president of the Meade School District.

Dave Maaschoff was News Director at KBHB in the 1980’s, and remembers Marguerite’s commitment to the community.

“Marguerite was just a tremendous lady. She really set the example of being involved in your community,” said Maaschoff. “From her time in the South Dakota Senate to the Meade School Board, her involvement in a multitude of community organizations and also with her church, Marguerite set a wonderful example.”

In the KBHB studios, a picture of a young Marguerite hangs on the wall. It’s not unusual for people to pause, even though they walk past it almost daily; the picture draws a person.

“She played many roles there in the early days, even before I came on board,” observed Kaitfors.  “We have a great picture of her in the office, sitting behind a typewriter. I think she was the ‘Girl Friday,’ the receptionist, the copy writer, she did all the jobs in the early days when they were just getting the station off the ground.”

She adds, “Marguerite didn’t just talk the talk.  She walked the walk. And did the work.”

And she quietly wore many hats: Educator, broadcaster, wife, mother, grandmother, public servant.

“She really was the person behind the scenes,” recalls Chris. “ I believe she was a sounding board for new ideas and truly one of the first pioneers in radio in the state of South Dakota.”

Listen to the interview ON DEMAND
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