Longtime ‘voice of Tracy’ falls silent

MARSHALL – Never mind having a face for radio, Con Rettmer had the voice – a one-of-a-kind, distinctive and unmistakable calling card that could be heard over the airwaves by his friends in Tracy and everyone in surrounding communities five mornings a week for well more than a decade on KMHL Radio.

That voice fell silent on Saturday night when Rettmer suffered a fatal heart attack at his home in Tracy.

He was 78.

Rettmer, a regular on the links just east of Tracy and for years one of the city’s most popular and amiable residents, grew into a true public figure in the area and gained pseudo-celebrity status with The Tracy Show on the radio.

Rettmer, who started easing his way into radio in the 1970s from the downtown Tracy studio before taking ownership of the show in 1998 after the departure of Steve Jones, accumulated hundreds of friends and followers – some whom he didn’t even know and who didn’t recognize him until he opened his mouth.

“We were in Balaton one day at the store and we were talking and this woman came running around the counter and said, “I know that voice – you’re on the radio!” said Con’s wife, Sandi. “Didn’t know his nameit was that radio program.”

Brad Strootman, general manager at KMHL Radio, said some in Tracy thought the show should be more formal and straightforward and strictly informational. But, he said, Rettmer took it in a different direction and was able to carve his own niche with a combination of information and humor.

“There was a group of Tracy that questioned what the show should be – they thought it should be more reading notches and less humor and joking around, and I always said, ‘No,'” Strootman said. “I said Con will do that show like that as long as he wants because he makes me and hundreds of other people laugh. His style of humor makes fun of everyone who takes themselves too seriously.”

He was humble, too, and his self-depreciating humor was just part of what made the morning show click, Strootman said.

“He was his favorite butt of jokes, which is such a gift,” said Strootman. “To me, he kind of became the voice of Tracy. It was a community of people who were having fun and enjoying small-town life.”

Sandi likened her husband to Will Rogers because there was no one he ever met he didn’t like. She said he could strike up a conversation about anything with just about anyone.

“He’d march right up to people, stick out his hand and say, ‘Hi, I’m Con Rettmer, how are you,'” Sandi said. “Just a very effervescent personality.”

That personality played perfectly on radio. Of Rettmer’s many gifts, gab certainly was among them, which would probably explain why he was so open about so many things in his personal life on the air. His wife said that was just the way he was and that was something that was never going to change.

“My life was never my own,” Sandi said. “He told everything. We were going to Vegas one week, so he told that all over the air. I’m like, ‘Just tell the burglars we’re gonna be gone!’ He was just so chatty and exuberant. That’s what a lot of people liked about him.”

When he wasn’t on the air, on the golf course or weaving around the streets of Tracy on a golf cart making sure everyone was in their place for the annual Box Car Days Grand Parade (which always starts on time), Rettmer was out promoting the city. He worked for the Economic Development Authority in Tracy from 1987-2001, and within that stretch had a nine-year run as the executive director of the Tracy Area Chamber of Commerce.