Longtime Minn. broadcaster Hilger dies

Published 9:10 am Wednesday, August 21, 2013

ST. CLOUD — Central Minnesota broadcaster and businessman Andy Hilger, whose radio career spanned six decades, has died. He was 83.

Hilger died Sunday at St. Benedicts Senior Community in St. Cloud, Miller-Carlin Funeral Homes said. He had been suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

In 1958, Hilger landed a job at WJON-AM as a night-time disc jockey under the name “Tin Pan Andy,” WJON reported. The St. Paul native was just passing through on U.S. Highway 10 when he stopped and made a call to WJON management to ask about a job at the station. He was hired on the spot.

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Hilger became half-owner of WJON in 1965. He later added WWJO-FM, KMXK-FM and KKJM-FM.

For 40 years, Hilger wrote and produced daily editorials for WJON. He also built WJON Cablevision in the late 1960s, bringing cable television to the St. Cloud area.

In 1998, Hilger sold WJON, WWJO and KMXK to Regent Communications of Cincinnati. He kept contemporary Christian station KKJM and later donated it to the St. Cloud Catholic Diocese. He volunteered to serve as its manager for six years.

He also launched an all-Catholic AM station, K-YES AM.

His wife, Carol Hilger, said her husband’s involvement with Christian radio may have been the work of which he was most proud. She said he would often leave work to attend daily Mass and spent many hours in prison ministry.

“He was born and raised Catholic, and that was the foundation he believed in and lived,” Carol Hilger said.

In 2006, Andy Hilger was inducted into the Minnesota Museum of Broadcasting Hall of Fame.

Besides his wife, Hilger is survived by their four children and several grandchildren. A funeral will be held Friday at St. Mary’s Cathedral in St. Cloud.