Gordon L. Capps, pioneer broadcaster and well-known radio station owner, passed away early Thursday, Aug. 7, 2008, at Holy Rosary Medical Center, Ontario, the victim of a serious life-threatening fall and accompanied by infirmities of age, from which he was unable to survive. Mr. Capps was 95.
Locally, Gordon was best-known for his longtime ownership of KSRV radio station in Ontario, founded in 1946 under the corporate title of Inland Radio, INC. But, in earlier years, Gordon began work in commercial radio broadcasting in 1933 at KVOS, Bellingham, Wash., later transferring to KPQ in Wenatchee, Wash. and, in 1941, carried his broadcast interests to station KFJI in Klamath Falls, Ore.
Perhaps one of Gordon’s most-exciting early-day broadcast activities took place in about 1944 at KLBM in LaGrande, Ore. where he became station manager. However, even that achievement was soon surpassed when, in 1946, Inland Radio, Inc. received permission from the Federal Communications Commission for construction of a radio station at Ontario, Ore., where Gordon would direct the station’s construction while also managing its operations. Over the years, Capps family holdings included not only station KSRV, but KBKR, Baker; KLBM, LaGrande; and KEEP, Twin Falls.
Gordon was among associated business friends who shared partial ownership in a cable television system that served the LaGrande and Baker areas. Remarkably, this was the second such system in the entire United States. The first cable system in the U.S. was located in Astoria, Ore. Local friends were aware that Gordon was a pioneer not only in radio broadcasting, but the cable television system as well. Observers have since agreed that, had Gordon stayed with cable television, he could have become sensationally wealthy.
He retired from radio station ownership in 1973, at which time he sold his radio holdings to his two sons. Gordon enjoyed the unique ability to maintain loyal staff members who stayed with him for years. Recalling his lifetime, one of those employees recently said “he was just as much a pioneer to this area as were the settlers. He brought true radio broadcasting into this area. He kept the station, and its mission of service to people, near and dear to his heart.” But radio broadcasting, his family, neighbors, friends and area residents were not Gordon’s only love of life. Fishing may have held second place. Friends say he would prefer to go fishing with family and/or companions, rather than to rest after a week’s work in the office. But, one of his associated problems that followed the fishing trips, was an inability to always find listeners who’d believe some of his fishing stories.
Gordon was born on Jan. 26, 1913, in the small community of Tekoa, Wash., just south of Spokane, Wash. He attended Tekoa public schools, except for two-years at the Tekoa Catholic Academy, then graduated from high school in 1931, followed by graduation from Washington Institute of Technology in 1933. Gordon married Elaine M. Hess at Wenatchee in 1934. This couple enjoyed the births of two sons, including Gary in December, 1935, and David in April, 1940. Elaine passed away in February, 1958, the victim of cancer. Family friends still share stories of the abundance of love they witnessed within this family for many years, and it still continues to this day. Sons Gary, of Bend, Ore., and David of Millsap, Texas, each enjoy their children, including Mark, Diane and Sarah in Gary’s family, and Jeffrey, Emily and Christopher, as well as Andy who passed away in 2006, in David’s group.
These families have also produced great-grandchildren. Gordon deeply loved these families, as indicated in various ways, including his close tracking of family birth dates and their varied activities. He loved to send gifts and cards. Gordon was married to Velma L. Morton in 1960 and enjoyed their life together until her death 30 years later, in 1990. Gordon was a member of St. Matthews Episcopal Church in Ontario; past president of Oregon Association of Broadcasters; member of the Ontario city council; board member of Presbyterian Community Care Center; and board member for Idaho Power Company. Gordon was preceded in death by his wives Elaine and Velma and his grandson, Andy. Funeral services were held on Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2008 at St. Matthews Episcopal Church in Ontario, Ore. Memorials may be sent to St. Matthews Episcopal Church, c/o of Lienkaemper Chapel, 78 NW 1st Ave., Ontario, OR 97914.