BEARDSTOWN — Robert Wood "Woody" Sudbrink died Wednesday, April 11, 2018, in Melbourne, Florida, due to complications following a stroke. He was 90.
Woody was born in Taylorville on Nov. 20, 1927, and had just celebrated his milestone birthday at the Naples (Florida) Ritz Carlton with family and friends.
Woody attended Beardstown High School before going on to serve in the Army Air Corps. He graduated in 1950 from the University of Illinois, Urbana, having paid for college by selling insurance. He started Sudbrink Insurance in 1950 in Beardstown.
Woody and Margareta Lou "Peggy Lou" Smith of Greenfield married Sept. 6, 1953, and had two children, Craig and Kyle. The marriage of 30 years ended in 1983, after which Woody married Marion Robertson. Marion passed away on Nov. 11, 2007. Woody married Barbara Fast on April 11, 2009.
In 1959, Woody built his first radio station - WRMS (AM) Beardstown - from the ground up; it went on the air the same year. Over the next six years he built three more radio stations, WIOK (AM) in Bloomington/Normal; KYND (AM) in Burlington, Iowa; and WRTH (AM) Wood River. In September 1968, he sold WRTH.
In the early 1970s, Woody recognized that the future of radio broadcasting was FM. Using the proceeds from the sale of WRTH, he followed his belief and purchased seven FM radio stations in major markets, including Miami, Milwaukee, Houston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Baltimore and Atlanta. He operated these stations with a "beautiful music" format, which proved to be very successful. He was known as the "Pioneer of FM Radio" in the United States. He went on to purchase and sell many other media properties, including television stations, during a 37-year period. He had a passion for the media business and was well respected in the industry. Woody was always looking for the next opportunity; he thrived on making a deal.
In 1968, the Sudbrink family moved to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, but never lost its connection to Beardstown. At Woody's 90th birthday party, he gifted $300,000 to build a community center in his hometown.
Preceding him in death were his sister, Jess Boynton; a granddaughter, Taylor LouAnne Sudbrink; his father, Roy E. Sudbrink; his mother, Alberta Lee Barrett Sudbrink; and his second wife, Marion Robertson.
Woody is survived by a son and daughter-in-law, Craig and Leigh Sudbrink of Greensboro, North Carolina; a daughter and son-in-law, Kyle and David Hunt of Dallas, Texas; his first wife, Margareta Lou Sudbrink of Dallas, Texas; his third wife, Barbara Fast Sudbrink of Melbourne, Florida; a stepson, Richard Fast of Asheville, North Carolina; two stepdaughters, Debbie Edlin of Louisville, Kentucky, and Carrie Fast of Melbourne, Florida; four grandchildren; four stepgrandchildren; two great-grandchildren and two great-stepgrandchildren.
Woody Sudbrink will be interred in the Sudbrink family plot at Walnut Ridge Cemetery, in Virginia. A memorial service is being planned for later in the year; service details are not yet finalized.
Published in Jacksonville Journal-Courier on Apr. 25, 2018.