Broadcast pioneer Bill O'Mara loved sports of every stripe, but nothing beat the thrill of hydroplane racing, an event that helped him make a name as a top sportscaster in the region.
A native of Minnesota, Mr. O'Mara got his start as a sportscaster in 1937, when he was 20, said his daughter, Leslie Markey. In 1948, he came to Seattle and began work in the newly formed television industry, where he covered the Seattle Rainiers baseball team for KING-TV.
He also worked for Channel 13 TV in Tacoma, KWYZ radio in Everett and KFKF radio in Bellevue. He finished his career at KLKI radio in Anacortes, where he was still broadcasting play-by-play high-school sports games at age 90.
Mr. O'Mara was inducted into the Unlimited Hydroplane Museum Hall of Fame, and when he was 89, he won the Jim Reding Award from the Washington State Baseball Coaches Association. Few people knew that Mr. O'Mara's real name was actually William Rhodes Jr., Markey said. She said that in the early days of radio, The Bon Marché department store — which sponsored one of his broadcasts — told him to change his name because Rhodes was also the name of a competing store.
Mr. O'Mara took his mother's maiden name as his professional name and never changed it back.
Berry, who owned radio station KLKI in Anacortes for 40 years, said Mr. O'Mara would never turn down an assignment, and would get in to work hours before a game began to set up equipment and prep himself for the work at hand.
Mr. O'Mara was involved in one of the most famous moments in early Seattle television when, in 1951, the hydroplane Quicksilver disintegrated and sank in Lake Washington, killing driver Orth Mathiot and riding mechanic Thom Whittaker. The event was being covered on live TV.
The TV cameras turned away from the scene, and Mr. O'Mara was moved to recite The Lord's Prayer. Years later, he told a Seattle Times reporter that many thought he'd killed his career by doing that.
Mr. O'Mara, who did play-by-play broadcasts until he was 90, died at Stevens Hospital in Edmonds. Bill was 92
Created by: PAPAWRAITH
Record added: Aug 08, 2010
Find A Grave Memorial# 56814238