Bob Sevey, known as the "Walter Cronkite of Hawaii" during his two decades as anchor of the top TV newscast in the state, died Friday in Olympia, Wash. He was 81.
The former news director and anchorman at KGMB Channel 9 had battled cancer for more than two years. He was given just months to live when he was first diagnosed, but he surpassed doctors' expectations and lived long enough to attend a reunion in Hawaii last year and say goodbye to many of the people he worked with and mentored over the years.
Sevey was considered one of the most trusted and respected journalists in the state. He retired from KGMB in July 1986 and moved to Washington state with his wife a few years later.
Former co-anchor Bob Jones said that although Sevey has not been on local TV for more than 20 years, the reputation that he built has, and will, live on.
"Long after TV viewers in Hawaii have forgotten the names of the rest of us who have been news anchors here, they'll remember Sevey," Jones said. "He was the most trusted, authoritative figure we've ever had on TV news."
Jones said he didn't always see eye-to-eye with Sevey, but said he never questioned Sevey's integrity.
"He built the best TV newsroom Hawaii has had. He hired journalistic talent, not performers," Jones said. "If hirees became performers, it was after they were hired for their journalism."
One of Sevey's early hires was a young woman from the Pacific Northwest named Linda Coble. Coble came to Hawaii in 1969 and worked at Channel 4 for a couple of years before being lured to KGMB.
Coble said Sevey reluctantly hired her.
"He was never into having women in broadcasting.
He never believed in it," she said. "But he realized they were getting popular and stole me away, and I'll never be more grateful."
And for a gruff newsman who didn't like the idea of women in the newsroom, Sevey surely hired his share. After Coble, many successful female journalists followed, such as Bambi Weil, Leslie Wilcox, Elisa Yadao and Tina Shelton.
Sevey was born in Minneapolis and raised there and in Iowa. He attended Iowa State College, where he got his first media job at a local radio station.
He moved to California and was a sportscaster at a radio station in Santa Barbara while attending the University of California, Santa Barbara. After graduating in 1951, Sevey worked as a production assistant for CBS television in Los Angeles and then as an announcer/director for a TV station in Phoenix.
Sevey moved to Hawaii in the 1950s and eventually joined KGMB in 1966.