Bob Dambach, the familiar face and voice of Prairie Public as director of television for decades, died at Essentia Health on Friday, January 21, 2022, in the presence of his wife, daughters, and son-in-law after a sudden collapse two days earlier. Robert Otto Dambach was born to Robert Anthony and Rita Anne (Bogert) Dambach on July 12, 1951, in Newark, NJ in the Newark Hospital featured in the opening titles of “The Sopranos.” The second of six children, he grew up in Whippany, NJ playing on the battlefields of the Revolutionary War, using George Washington’s headquarters as a place to stay warm (before it became a National Historic Site) He grew up attending Catholic schools, graduating from Bayley Ellard High School, where he lettered in football, and won many state and regional swimming awards at the Anchor Swim Club. He went to the University of Dayton on a football scholarship, graduating with a B.A. degree in communications and history. He began his broadcasting career as a graduate student at the University of Iowa, where he worked on Hawkeye football broadcasts and on the production crew for the Phil Donahue Show. After earning his M.A. in Radio, TV and Film, he became program director for KMUW Wichita KS, and in 1979 he was named the first program director for the newly licensed KNPR, Las Vegas, NV. He met Virginia Carman Mulloy who was the station’s development director. They were colleagues and friends and fell in love, marrying on June 12, 1982. In 1985 Bob and Virginia moved with their baby daughter, to accept positions at Prairie Public Television in Fargo. Bob served as program director at Prairie Public until he was promoted to director of television in 1996. He became a driving force behind hundreds of successful TV pledge drives, which inadvertently led to a generation of children who could recite the pledge phone number on demand. Bob initiated the Kid Zone Literacy Project and frequently recruited his daughters Mary Rita (1983) and Jeanne Louise (1987), to volunteer as props during pledge drives, extras for local productions, and as the talent and voices behind KidZone With his passion for history and local production, Bob opened new doors for partnerships that led to dozens of award-winning local documentaries supported by the State Historical Society of ND, Humanities North Dakota, the ND Arts Council, the NDDOT, the ND Natural Resources Conservation Council, Tourism Manitoba, Heritage Winnipeg, and the Energy and Environmental Resource Center at UND. A 40-year partnership with Michael Miller and the NDSU Germans From Russia Heritage Collection resulted in 9 locally produced and nationally distributed Germans from Russia documentaries, including A Soulful Sound: Music of the Germans from Russia, Schmeckfest, Iron Crosses, All You See is Sky, and others. These documentaries, and many others won Regional Emmy Awards, numerous Telly and Aurora Awards and local, regional, national and international recognition. The inaugural program, Germans from Russia: Children of the Steppes; Children of the Prairie, was seen by international audiences when broadcast on Deutsch Welle in Germany and was a finalist in the U. Siebe International Film Festival, the only American Documentary to be invited to participate in the juried competition. With Bob’s inherent intellectual curiosity, he found inspiration from many sources. When he became an insulin-dependent diabetic in 1996, Bob turned his illness into an opportunity to educate and assist others with health issues. As executive producer, his five Healthworks documentaries and well- researched web resources garnered the highest web use in Prairie Public’s history. His relationship with Buck Paulson lead to the production of annual 13-half hour episodes of Painting with Paulson at PPTV every year since 1998. In addition to his work and his wife, Bob loved and was devoted to his daughters. He introduced them to Broadway early in life by singing show tunes rather than lullabies, and later telling them the story of “Le Mis” rather than nursery rhymes. He took great joy in introducing his children to parks, zoos, museums and historic sites nationwide, and giving them the chance to travel widely, including trips to Europe and the Caribbean. He took great pride in their academic, performing, and athletic talents and was delighted when they both married young men with German from Russia heritage, which he claimed made him an honorary German from Russia. Bob delighted in his 7 grandchildren; they made his eyes light up whenever they entered a room. He loved going to Bison games and watching football with Reuben; having Addison and Judah read to him every week; and reading to the younger children until he was hoarse. From the minute he retired in 2018, he taught world and US history to Reuben and Judah weekly. Bob was an avid reader, game player, woodworker, a knowledgeable Civil War buff, and memorabilia collector. Bob is survived by his wife Virginia; his daughters Mary (Zach) Leibel, Moorhead, and Jeanne (Dustin) Steiner, Fargo; his grandchildren Reuben (11), Judah (8), Dinah (6), Hannah (3) and Esther (9 months) Leibel and Addison (8) and Gracelyn (4) Steiner; his German exchange student daughter and son, Dina and Denis Rupp; his siblings Linda (Greg) Kehoe, Vienna VA, Ricky (Ellen) Dambach, Southport NC, Peter (Kathy) Dambach, Lanoka Harbor NJ, Barry (Annette) Dambach, Flemington NJ, and Kristy (John) Scaramuzzo, Greensboro NC, and many nephews, nieces, and cousins. As well, he leaves a multitude of friends, dozens of colleagues— and current and former PPTV producers, directors, editors, and videographers—who carry on Bob’s legacy of broadcast excellence in radio, television, and film nationwide. A celebration of life will be scheduled for late spring at Lindenwood Park where Bob walked 2 to 3 miles every day for many years. Memorial gifts may be made to the National Park Foundation, the NDSU Libraries Germans from Russia Heritage Collection, the State Historical Society of North Dakota, or the Civil War Trust, a division of the American Battlefield Trust.

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  1. Oh, I will miss Bob. He was one of the most genuine people I have ever known and I loved his sense of humor. Rest in Peace, Bob.

  2. It was my great luck to be CEO of Prairie Public for 3 eventful years (1996-1999) and to enjoy and support Bob’s inventive work. His interest in history of all kinds matched my own, and opened vistas of learning to generations of North Dakotans (and beyond). He and Virginia were kind friends and colleagues. Bob will be deeply missed by family and friends but his work will continue to educate and inspire.

  3. Such sad news. Bob was a talented and dedicated broadcaster, especially about all things North Dakota. He shared his expertise with a smile. Bob was a good colleague and friend. He will be missed.

  4. Am so very sorry to hear of Bob’s passing. This world has lost talented, intelligent human being. Working under him at Prairie Public, I so enjoyed his stories, and he had a lot of stories to tell! I so appreciated you, Bob, and will miss you. Terri G.

  5. Virginia & Family,

    I am so sad to learn this news. Bob was one of the first people I met at a national PBS conference when I made the switch between public radio and public television work at South Dakota Public Broadcasting. He was always so enthusiastic about his work, but even more so in sharing the latest news from his family. Sending light and love your way in this difficult time. Bob will be missed.

    Best,
    Michelle

  6. Words cannot express my sorrow at the news of Bob’s passing. I enjoyed each and every Germans from Russia production that he produced, and so much more. It was a privilege and a pleasure to work with him on the Glueckstal Colonies Research Association documentary, “Heaven is Our Homeland.”

    I send my condolences to the Dambach and Prairie Public families. May God wrap you in his loving arms and comfort you at this time. Cherish and preserve your many wonderful memories of Bob Dambach.

  7. I’m so blessed to have met Bob in Fargo several years ago and to attend the premier of the Women Behind the Plow. What a wonderful man! He will truly be missed. May he Rest In Peace.

  8. I met Bob shortly after becoming Director of Television at South Dakota Public Broadcasting. He soon became a great friend. He was also an incredible mentor, and always willing to share his knowledge of the business. The world has lost a great person.

  9. Virginia and family,
    I am so very saddened to hear about Bob. What a great soul. Always professional, smart, hard working, and full of passion about all of you, his cherished family. I loved how he was quick to laugh and crack a joke, kind to all, great to be around, and enthusiastic about so many things. I can’t imagine how hard this is for your family. He made his lasting and wonderful mark in this world.
    Cynthia

  10. It’s rare to know someone as passionate as Uncle Bob. Whether history, film, or his grandkids, he gave his all to everything he ever did. He’ll be missed as passionately as he lived.

  11. I met Bob when he agreed to help me with my 6 Brothers documentary. I really appreciated the help and guidance he provided!!

    My sympathies!

  12. So very sad to hear this. I had the privilege to get to know Bob from “Women Behind The Plow”! He was a wonderful, pleasant, kind man with a huge heart of gold! I will miss him dearly. Heaven gained another Angel. God Bless Bob and “God Bless his family ” during this very difficult time. Rita & Jerome Mosset, Linton, ND

  13. I’m so sorry to hear of Bob’s passing. I met Bob when I was an intern at Prairie Public. He hired me after I graduated college and trusted me with projects even when I didn’t trust myself. I will always remember him fondly. Much love to Bob’s family.

  14. This is truly a great loss for his family, his friends, for scores of television viewing admirers and for the future programs that will not be produced. Working with Bob on the hand full of documentaries for Prairie Public, Lew and I always enjoyed his company, whether in his home with Virginia or in ours in Texas, in Europe or even running into him once in Canada. I was always impressed with his talent, his knowledge and his endurance as we labored in such a variety of settings and locales. He knew instinctively and artistically what belonged in a documentary and where it should be placed. His creative genius guided us in writing and of course in finding the best food in town. I will cherish my memories of our many shared hours. My deepest sympathy goes to Virginia and the family.

  15. While a member of the boards of Prairie Public Broadcasting and Prairie Public Television Manitoba, I had the good fortune to meet and talk with Bob on many occasions. Knowing and working with him was a privilege. Carol and I send our deepest condolences to Virginia, his children and grandchildren.

  16. Bob used his energy and talents to benefit us all. We were blessed with his many years of work as director of television at Prairie Public Television, including the award-winning documentaries that he shepherded from conception to completion. In addition, he helped many people in our communities achieve access to the public air waves, including our students at MSUM via the broadcasting of Campus News and student documentaries. Bob was a wonderful person and a good friend. We will miss you, Bob.

  17. I was one of 6 housemates with Bob at the University of Dayton from 1969-1973. Bob had a wonderful sense of humor and it was rare to find Bob not reading a book. He is a part of my life that is very special to me and although it is almost 50 years since we graduated, I will always have great memories of our years during those turbulent times of protests and war as Vietnam came to a close. Recently our six housemates began communications after many years of silence as we raised our families and concentrated on our careers. Although deeply saddened by Bob’s unexpected passing, I am consoled by our recent communications where I learned of Bob’s successes in the broadcast industry in his much beloved Fargo. My deepest condolences to his family and friends at this tragic loss.

  18. We were so saddened by the news of Bob’s passing. Both of us worked with Bob on several of the Germans from Russia PPTV documentaries. We shared many stories and many experiences over the years. Bob once told us that after working among the Germans from Russia in North Dakota, the influence was so great that when people would tell him they were “German,” Bob would immediately ask “Now are you German-Russian or just German-German?” People back east had never heard of “German-Russians.” And they certainly had never heard the redundant term “German-Germans”! But that’s what happens when you live and work in the German-Russian country of North Dakota. Dear Virginia and Dambach Family Members, we know this is a difficult time. But remember the sound of Bob’s laughter and his wonderful sense of humor. We always will.
    With our deepest condolences, Tim and Rosalinda Kloberdanz of Fargo, North Dakota.

  19. I, too, was one of six housemates with Bob at the University of Dayton in the early 1970s. I was shocked to hear of his passing. I remember Bob as being hard working and thoughtful, but not afraid to have fun as well. I was not surprised, when we reconnected several years ago, to learn of his success in the media industry. It was his passion even at UD where he worked for the campus radio station. His devotion to his profession and his deep love of his family was evident in his communications with us. I last saw him a few years ago when he travelled here to Ohio, and it saddens me deeply that he is gone. The world is truly a little emptier today.
    I offer my deepest condolences to his family and friends. We were all privileged to have known this good man. He will be missed.

  20. I was so very saddened to learn of Bob’s sudden passing. We were buddies during our time together in the U. of Iowa’s graduate-level broadcasting program. I always admired his ability to remain calm in the face of the academic storms we encountered there. I will always cherish the memories of our friendship. I extend my deepest sympathies to his family.

  21. My sympathy to the family. I got to know him on our trip to Ukraine. __A fun and good traveler. Br. Placid Gross, Abbey, Richardton, ND. ,

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