The voice of generations of Vernonites has fallen silent.
The city, and the North Okanagan region, is mourning the death of longtime CJIB-AM/KISS-FM radio morning show host Frank Martina, who died Tuesday, Oct. 3, from pancreatic cancer.
He was 76.
More than 100 people had left comments and reactions to Martina’s death as it was posted Wednesday morning by Beach Radio Vernon.
Don Weglo of Vernon was one of Martina’s longest-serving co-workers. Martina, in fact, hired Weglo at CJIB in 1974, and Weglo became Martina’s boss when named program director in 1988.
”I can count on one hand the number of times he missed a morning show due to illness over close to 40 years. He was so darn reliable,” said Weglo. “It was in large part because of his talent and ability that CJIB and KISS FM remained No. 1 in the ratings for decades.
“He was a mentor to a young wet behind the ears DJ who looked up to him and appreciated all that he did for us. Although he was a shy person like me, he was a true radio celebrity once he turned the microphone on – simply one of the best as a live broadcast personality, affectionately known simply as Frank everywhere he went. I will miss my friend.”
The proudest human being on the planet to call Big Beaver, Sask. – located 180 kilometres from Regina on the Saskatchewan/Montana border – his hometown, Martina got hooked on radio doing high school homework in 1965 while listening on a cheap transistor radio to the disc jockeys having fun on CKCK Radio in Regina.
He entered a high school announcer competition hosted by CKCK and won. Thus, a career was born.
Martina worked at CKSL in Weyburn, Sask., then at stations in Moose Jaw and Regina before heading west to Vancouver to visit his parents. He drove through the Okanagan, fell in love with the valley, and took a job at CJIB in 1971.
Martina stayed until his retirement in 2007. He went back to work hosting the Saturday afternoon classic rock show on KISS, now Beach Radio. His show was pulled in December 2020, six month shy of reaching 50 years broadcasting with the same station.
In an interview in 2020 with The Morning Star after his Saturday afternoon classic rock show was cancelled, Martina reflected on his broadcasting legacy.
“It’s not really a big deal (being terminated),” he said. “It was one day a week and I did it because I love doing it more than anything else. It’s been a helluva ride. I’d hoped to make it to 50 years, but I’m pleased as punch to have done it in a city I love.”
Just two months after the interview, the Vernon Community Radio Society said it reached an agreement in principle to have Martina join community station Valley FM, showcasing Martina’s Classics show on Saturdays between 1 and 4 p.m.
The announcement was made by community station founder Gord Leighton, who died in July 2023 at age 78.
“Frank is a radio icon who totally understands the magic that makes community radio special,” Leighton told The Morning Star in 2021.
Said Martina: “With the erosion of live on-air talent and the homogenized narrow playlists and lack of community interaction, having local community input is nothing but a win-win situation. Bringing back an oldies show is a passion of mine.”
The Vernon Community Radio Society is available online at valleyfm.ca. Studio space has been found on 29th Avenue, but the society is still fundraising for equipment.
A third longtime Vernon radio personality, Duane Grandbois, died in September at age 75. Grandbois was from Weyburn, and spent more than 50 years in broadcasting, working in Regina, Lethbridge, Edmonton, Kelowna, and Vernon.
Grandbois worked at both Vernon stations as an announcer and sales rep.