Charlie loved radio. Growing up in Chadron, he always listened to the radio and interned with local station KCSR during his high school years. After graduating from Chadron High School in 1960, Charlie attended the University of Nebraska at Lincoln where he earned bachelor’s degrees in Sociology and Broadcast Journalism in 1965. While in college, he worked the early morning show at KLIN and was enrolled in the ROTC program. Upon graduation, Charlie was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Signal Corp of the U.S. Army.
Soon after graduating college, Charlie married his childhood friend, Jolene Byerly, on June 20, 1965. They soon left Chadron and moved to New York City, where he worked with the U.S. Army as a liaison to the major broadcast networks. One year later, Charlie was deployed to Vietnam in conjunction with an Australian division which performed psychological operations in a program called "Winning Hearts And Minds." Charlie's stint in Vietnam was something he rarely talked about because he was engaged in combat activity. While in Vietnam, Charlie studied radio engineering and received his First Class Broadcast License (FCC). For serving in Vietnam, he was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal.
After returning from Vietnam, Charlie's next adventure took him to Denver, where he worked as a broadcast engineer at KDKO prior to being hired full-time at KBTR. Along with his team, Charlie pioneered the all-news format in the late '60s and early '70s under owner John Mullins. It was in Denver where harlie would start to grow his family.
In 1973, Charlie’s career took him from being an employee to an owner of a radio station when he purchased KLIX radio in Twin Falls. KLIX Radio 1310 was a country music radio station which quickly became “The Sound of the Valley” when Charlie added a strong local news and community presence. With its big city sound, KLIX absolutely dominated Southern Idaho radio.
In the early days, Charlie’s team consisted of on-air personalities Dave Winter, Johnny Mac, Carl Raida, Bobby Dobbs, Dennis Conrad, Don Jeb and Doug Van Tyle, plus the award-winning local news and sports department featuring Jim Morrison, Annette Jenkins, Joe Miani, Don Wimberly, Ed Prater, and Jerry Marcantonio.
Additionally, Charlie pioneered talk radio with the popular “Party Line” program hosted by L. James Koutnik. Charlie extended his dominance over the local market with the purchase of radio station KMTW-FM, K-96.
Under Charlie’s direction, KLIX promoted fun events for Magic Valley residents including the annual KLIXMAS Tree Lighting contests, remote broadcasts featuring KLIX personalities and the unforgettable KLIX KLUCKER, March of Dimes Walkathons, Paint Magic, the Twin Falls County Fair, country music concerts, and plenty of free popcorn during the Buhl Sagebrush Days Parade.
Charlie was a Rotary Club member and active in Boy Scouts while his son Ted earned his Eagle Award. He spent many volunteer hours at pancake suppers, outings and as scoutmaster.
Charlie had a special love for miniatures. In his family room he created a miniature train layout with little houses, trees, bridges, locomotives and boxcars that went round and round and switched tracks. He also bought a doll house for his daughter Emily, then handmade most of the miniature furniture, and even laid a miniature wood floor, plank-by-plank, and a shingled roof, shingle-by-shingle.
Charlie loved toys and was able to provide many for himself, his wife and children (subsequently the neighborhood friends, too). He had a luxury Chevy van that pulled a pop-up StarCraftCenter and a boat, which he inherited from his father-in-law, a hot tub, trampoline, a fort house built in the backyard, 3-wheelers, 2-wheelers and eventually a small collection of cars!
The Tuma family set out on the open road for trips to Nebraska to visit family often, with stops in Yellowstone, of course, as well as many a camping trip to the Sawtooth National Forest north of Twin Falls. He also provided a few camping trips to California and took his family to Disneyland, the J. Paul Getty Museum, Hearst Castle, and many other sites. Of course, there were adventurous stops in Las Vegas at Circus Circus!
Many years later, being retired, Charlie still provided entertainment for his grandson, Jaden, in the form of technology. Many hours were spent on Charlie’s lap pushing buttons on a keyboard or a mouse at the computer screen learning how to spell, read, do math, among other things. It’s no surprise that Jaden is quite adept at technology!
A “Celebration of Life” was held on Sunday, October 30, 2022, at The Olive Tree Ministry Center, 338 Idaho Street East, Twin Falls, ID, 83301. Following a lunch, the family and guests were invited to view the spreading of Charlie’s ashes at the KLIX radio tower site, located at 3831 North 3500 East, in Kimberly, Idaho.
In lieu of flowers, the family requested that donations be made to Hospice Visions, Meals on Wheels (in Twin Falls, ID) or a charity of your choice.
NOTE: We belatedly learned of Charlie Tuma's death in Idaho....and regret this very late posting – as well as having lost touch with Charlie in our later years. We simply cannot publish his obituary without comment. Charlie was a good friend dating back to our teenage years before either of us worked in broadcasting – but we both aspired to one day work in radio. Several other former Chadron residents "made it big" in broadcasting – like brothers John and Charles Rook, Jack Thayer – all very talented and successful broadcasters. And there may be others about whom we don't know. I believe none was any more creative or talented than Charlie Tuma. His obituary above (from the Magic Valley Times-News in Twin Falls, Idaho) says it all. Rest in peace old friend. ~~~~ Larry Miller