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Local broadcasting pioneer, community philanthropist dies

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news Willmar, 56201
Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

WILLMAR — Bill Linder spent a long career in broadcasting but philanthropy was the passion closest to his heart.

“There’s no question that was important in his life,” said his son, Steve Linder. “He wanted to do more.”

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Bill Linder died Tuesday at age 92. His funeral will be at 3 p.m. Sunday at Bethel Lutheran Church, where he was a longtime member.

Harris Willard Linder Jr., named after his father and known to most as Bill, could trace his involvement in radio back to 1940, when his parents, Harris Sr. and Irene Linder, moved to Willmar to establish KWLM Radio.

Bill, then a student at the University of Minnesota, was pressed into service as an announcer for the fledgling radio station. Bill’s father sold advertising and his mother ran the office, Steve Linder said. “My dad did everything else out of necessity.”

After a stint in the U.S. Navy as a radio and radar instructor, Linder returned to Willmar to rejoin the family business which also included his brother, Don Linder. Over the next couple of decades the Linder family established KMHL Radio in Marshall, KDMA in Montevideo, KWLM-FM (now KQIC) in Willmar and KMHL-FM in Marshall.

The Linders also started the franchising agreement that brought Muzak to west central Minnesota through a KWLM subcarrier. They founded Minnesota Electric Supply and the Linder Farm Network as well.

Bill Linder’s contributions to Minnesota broadcasting were recognized within the industry. He was on the board of directors of the Minnesota Broadcasters Association and became a charter inductee in the Minnesota Broadcasting Hall of Fame in 2001.

“Radio was something he was interested in and good at,” said Steve Linder, who followed his father into the business and is the third generation to run what is now Lakeland Broadcasting.

But his father would probably want to be remembered most for his philanthropy, he said. “The word that keeps coming up is ‘service.’”

The Linders have been major donors to local causes ranging from Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center and the Hawk Creek Animal Shelter to the United Way of West Central Minnesota and Bethel Lutheran Church. They were among the key givers to capital campaigns to build and expand the Kandiyohi County Area Family YMCA.

In 2010 the family was recognized with the Willmar Area Community Foundation’s fifth annual Award in Philanthropy.

Although the award was meaningful, service was more important than recognition to his father, Steve Linder said. “He was a pretty humble guy. Faith, family and service — those were the values he always talked about.”

Until recently, when his health began to decline, Bill Linder remained involved in the downtown ministerial committee and the Becker Market, he said. “He continued to take an interest even until the very end. … He had a long life that was lived well and something to celebrate.”

In addition to his son Steve, Bill Linder is survived by two other sons, Dave and Paul; a daughter, Nancy Alsaker; his brother, Don Linder; and eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his wife and one son. Arrangements are with the Harvey Anderson Funeral Home in Willmar.

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