Mass of Christian Burial will be at 11 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 4, at St. Michael Parish in Wausau, with the Rev. Bill Grevatch officiating. Interment will be at Restlawn Memorial Park in Wausau.
Visitation will be at the Brainard Funeral Home in Wausau from 4 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 3, and at the church from 9 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 4, until the Mass.
Those wishing to make a memorial gift may send a charitable contribution in memory of Richard D. Dudley to the Community Foundation of North Central Wisconsin – Wausau/Marathon County Fund, 500 First St., Suite 2600, Wausau, WI 54403.
Mr. Dudley was born Oct. 29, 1923, in Waupaca, a son of the late Robert J. and Stella Jones Dudley. The family moved to Wausau in 1925 when his father was hired as a branch manager for Armour & Company. He graduated from Wausau High School in 1942.
After graduation he joined the U.S. Navy. He was a distinguished veteran of World War II, serving as a gunner in a torpedo bomber in the Pacific Theater. He flew 138 combat missions over three years. When his ship, the U.S.S. Gambier Bay, was sunk in the battle of Leyte Gulf, he spent 57 hours in the South Pacific before he was rescued. He received 12 service medals and decorations including the Purple Heart, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Presidential Unit Citation and four air medals.
After serving in the war, he continued his education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison before returning to Wausau.
He was married to Eileen Deneen in 1949. She died in 1984.
He was married to Nancy (Kurszewski) Wanta in 1990.
Mr. Dudley began his professional career in broadcasting as a salesman at WSAU radio in 1947, and was named general manager of the station at age 27. He expanded and grew the company that owned WSAU, helping it become part of Forward Communications Corp., a major independent national media company which owned and operated radio and television stations and newspapers throughout the United States, including properties in Wausau, Madison, Marshfield, Iowa, Illinois, West Virginia, Texas, Kansas, Florida and Minnesota.
He was named president of Forward Communications in 1963, and chairman and chief executive officer in 1981. In 1984, Forward Communications was sold to Wesray Corp., a nationally known venture capital group. He continued as an owner, and operated the company as president and chief executive officer. Forward was sold to Adams Communications in 1988.
By 1989, he and his brother, Bob, formed Dudley Communications Corp. and Dudley Broadcasting Management to own and operate television stations, including stations in Michigan, Georgia and Washington. During the 1990s, he served as chairman and built the company into a national independent television group. Dudley Communications was sold to The Tribune Co. of Chicago June 5, 1998.
Mr. Dudley served the longest term ever as a director with the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB). He also served as chairman of the radio board division of the NAB. He received the Grover C. Cobb Memorial Award from the NAB, an award presented to him in recognition of his contributions to broadcasting and government.
He was the former president of the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association and served on its board of directors and held other offices for 15 years. In 1989, he was one of the first 12 individuals elected to the Wisconsin Broadcasters Hall of Fame, with the criteria based on contributions to broadcasting, community and the state of Wisconsin.
In 2001, he received the American Broadcast Pioneer Award of the Broadcasters’ Foundation, an award presented to individuals who have made an enormous contribution to the broadcasting industry and to the world.
While building Dudley Communications Corp., he also became involved as an investor and executive in Adirondack Hydro Development Corp., a private energy development and construction company based in New York. He served as president and chairman of Adirondack, assisting with the development of more than 10 hydroelectric power sites on the East Coast. In 1997, Adirondack was sold to Indeck Energy Corp.
Mr. Dudley was a founder or investor in more than 100 businesses throughout his lifetime. By 1998, he expanded his venture capital to include two new investment companies, Dudley Investments LLC, and Wildcatters LLC, both of which are dedicated to supporting local and Wisconsin businesses through ownership interests, equity infusions, loans and management expertise.
Through Dudley Investments and Wildcatters, Dudley backed numerous Wausau area businesses including Riiser Energy, Northern Wire Corp., Office Solutions/SNA Enterprises, Stoney Creek, Rondele Specialty Foods, Lakeland Overhead Door Company, CarBuffs, Denzin Engineering, Granite Peak Corp., Stoney Creek Hospitality Corp., Riverside Place and the Jefferson Street Inn.
He served as a director of M&I Bank (now the Bank of Montreal) until 2006.
Mr. Dudley developed The Dudley Tower, an 11-story, state-of-the-art downtown office building in 2006. The building is dedicated to the four Dudley brothers and is a centerpiece for downtown Wausau’s revitalization.
In March 2013, he provided the venture funds that allowed Wausau’s American Legion Golf Course (now known as Tribute Golf Course) and restaurant to continue to operate.
He has been a long-time supporter of Wausau area causes, including the United Way, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Grand Theatre Restoration Committee, North Central Health Care Foundation, Habitat for Humanity, the Wausau Chamber of Commerce and the Community Foundation of North Central Wisconsin.
He received the Boy Scouts of America Silver Beaver Award, Jaycees Outstanding Citizen of the Year Award and was the Wausau School District’s Hall of Fame recipient in 2001. The Community Foundation of North Central Wisconsin honored him with the Lifetime Spirit of Philanthropy Award in 2009. That same year, he received the Leadership in Philanthropy Award from the Boys and Girls Club of Wausau. In 2011, Junior Achievement of Wisconsin named him a Champion of Business.
He was awarded a Doctorate of Humane Letters Degree in 1983 from Wheeling College in Wheeling, W.V. Additionally, he served as a director of Viterbo College in La Crosse and on the Texas Christian University, School of Communications, Curriculum Advisory Committee.
Mr. Dudley served on the board of directors of three major private foundations, including the Judd Alexander Foundation, the Schleuter Family Foundation and the Dudley Foundation. In 2000, he funded and created the Dudley Foundation Inc., which has donated more than $2.5 million to community causes since 2001.
Survivors include his wife, Nancy; two daughters, Mary Catherine (Greg Wortman) Dudley, Santa Fe, N.M., and Ann Dudley (Robert) Shannon, Stevens Point; two sons, Robert James (Penny) Dudley II, Wausau, and John Deneen (Amy) Dudley, Mosinee; two stepsons, Todd (Julie) Wanta and Troy (Ginger Reed) Wanta, both of Las Vegas, Nev.; eight grandchildren; three stepgrandchildren; and one great-great-grandchild.
He was also preceded in death by three brothers, Jefferson James “Jay”, Robert Lee “Bob” and Lauren Charles.