The Captain 11 show, a staple on KELOLAND Television from 1955 to 1996, holds the title of the world’s longest-running children’s TV program. As a fledgling reporter starting at KELOLAND-TV, I was in awe of Dave, a long-time legend whose tales I grew up hearing from my parents. Despite moving far away, they fondly remembered watching Captain 11, and were thrilled to know their daughter was sharing the screen with “The Captain!”
In a KELOLAND News promotional photo, I’m beside Dave and my co-anchor, Doug Lund. There, As I look at this old picture from the early 90’s, I see a scared kid, fresh in my broadcasting career, trying to gain some credibility with “Barbara Bush pearls!” Here I was, just 22 years old and working alongside these local icons. It was a nerve-wracking and slightly intimidating experience. My memories of Dave from those early days are vivid, but what stands out the most is his kindness. I’ll always be grateful for how he taught me the correct pronunciation of “realtor” and “chimney”—I had been saying “ree-la-tor” and “chim-en-ey.” He gently pulled me aside, and in the most considerate way, guided me. It never felt like criticism, but rather like he was watching over me, which I deeply appreciated.
The “Captain” faced his own trials. I attended his son, David Junior’s funeral—he died at 34 from AIDS. I’ll never forget the anguish on Dave’s face; the palpable pain of losing a child. Little did I know that one day, I would wear that same expression. The Dedricks courageously addressed what was then a stigmatized death, speaking out publicly. Dave devoted years afterward volunteering at the Berakhah House, a haven then for those dying of AIDS. He unknowingly set an example for me, one I’d follow years later: how to respond to the death of a child from a stigmatized tragedy. Now, with advancements in HIV treatment, it’s no longer a death sentence, and places like Berakhah House have evolved, now sheltering veterans experiencing homelessness. I aspire for a similar evolution in our fight against overdose and fentanyl poisoning, to a point where the work we do at Emily’s Hope is no longer needed.
Dave was also painfully familiar with addiction. He was open about his struggles with alcoholism, which caused turmoil in his personal and professional life. He shared his battle in his book, It Ain’t All Cartoons. As a prominent public figure, he bravely shared his challenges, aiming to help others. His compassion was evident in everything he did.
Dave and I share another connection: we were both inducted into the South Dakota Hall of Fame. To be listed alongside someone like Dave, who mentored me as a young journalist and reassured me of my place there, is incredibly humbling. While he was alive, Dave probably didn’t realize the impact he had on my life, both during his life and even after his death. His example of how to face life’s gravest challenges with grace and selflessness continues to inspire me.
I attended Dave’s funeral on January 22, 2010. In his sign-offs on Captain 11, he would often say, “If I were to leave a legacy, it would be that on some future day, each of you might sit down with a child and say, ‘Once upon a time, there was a man.’”
Once upon a time, there was a man who taught me the essence of transforming pain into purpose, and to do so with grace and dignity. For that, I will be forever grateful.
Faith, Hope & Courage,