Fordham University alum and longtime WNYC host dies at 51

Richard Hake_credit Matthew Septimus
Richard Hake, longtime host on WNYC passed away on April 24.
Photo courtesy of Matthew Septimus

For 30 years Richard Hake was a news host and reporter at WNYC radio. On April 24, he passed away tragically from naturally causes at the age of 51.

After graduating from Fordham University in 1991, he started at the radio station in 1990. Up until his death, he was doing shows from his home in the Upper East Side by himself.

He was born in the Bronx, but at age 4, moved to Lake Carmel. His dad, Richard Hake, was a detective in the 44th Precinct and his mom, Joy Mekeland was a secretary.

His impact was felt by many at his company. WNYC CEO Goli Sheikholeslami expressed condolences.

“For all of us at New York Public Radio and in WNYC’s listening community, Richard was one of the first voices we heard every morning,” Sheikholeslami said. “As the host of Morning Edition, he brought us the news, welcomed the new day and helped us get ready for whatever lay ahead. It was the position he always wanted, and he worked very hard to get there. He loved to say he ‘woke up New York,’ and he brought the same warmth and generosity to listeners that he shared with his colleagues every day.”

Sheikholeslami added: “We know this incredibly difficult news is made only more challenging by our inability to be together in person. The newsroom is planning a tribute to celebrate Richard’s incredible legacy.”

His colleague, reporter Jim O’Grady spoke about him on April 27, and did an obituary on air.

O’Grady told listeners how Hake wasn’t just a morning show host. In 1997, he ventured out to report on the 70th anniversary of the Cyclone at Coney Island. Instead of interviewing people, Hake did a live report while going on the roller coaster. Listeners heard Hake’s screams live.

”Richard wasn’t only a host he was an award winning reporter,” he said. “Producing tape like that is radio art.”

O’Grady explained that Hake was also great at breaking news. He covered the 2015 East Village gas explosion, the 2003 blackout, September 11 and much more.

His mom told O’Grady how Hake used a toy microphone as a child to interview other kids.

“Richard was a New Yorker to the core,” he said.

According to O’Grady, he was “shy, had warm blue eyes, a dancer’s body and was a practicing Catholic. He was also an active member of the LGBTQ community.

O’Grady explained that Hake didn’t feel like he was better than anybody. He was professional, would greet every guard by name, gave advice to people and knew and spoke to all the interns.

“His fellow workers often said he wanted you to know your worth,” he explained. “Until the end Richard Hake cared about doing the most for WNYC listeners.”

Even while feeling alone doing shows for the past two months from home, he continued to be accurate and clear.

“In his bones and in his heart Richard cared about serving the public good,” O’Grady said. “He cared about getting it right and he loved what he did.”

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