Bob Reha, a reporter in the Moorhead bureau of Minnesota Public Radio, died Saturday of leukemia. He was 49.
Reha reported on many of the most high profile stories in northwestern Minnesota and North Dakota over the last couple decades, including Red River flooding, the school shooting on the Red Lake reservation, the disappearance of Dru Sjodin and the subsequent trial of Alphonso Rodriguez Jr.
Covering the Red Lake community following the fatal shooting of 10 people reservation in 2005 left a deep impression on Reha, and he was proud of his coverage. Singling out a story he did the day after the shooting, he said: "I thought I captured the horror and pain those kids went through."
Among Reha's recent favorites was a profile he did on a Fargo man known for his fine craftsmanship of wooden artificial legs.
To his colleagues, Reha was a laid back outdoorsman, fun-loving with a sense of humor.
"Bob Reha has experienced more life than most of us ever will. He's rafted the whitewater of Wyoming. He's scrambled his Jeep up rocky slopes in Montana. He's cigar-chomping, whiskey-drinking, gun-shooting tough," recalls MPR's St. Cloud bureau chief Tim Post.
"But over the years we've also seen Bob's tender side, if he'll allow me to use that term. He won the heart of my daughter when we visited him in Moorhead and he gave her ice cream, juice and chocolate stars. He's spent countless hours in countless farm kitchens over countless cups of coffee listening to the stories of rural America," Post said.
Reha grew up in Iowa, but developed a deep affinity in his youth for the Red River Valley, his family's traditional fishing destination. In 2002, Reha wrote fondly about trekking 450 miles just to catch Red River catfish.
"When my family first started visiting the Red, the river was different," Reha recalled in that account. "Some communities had garbage dumps on the river. The water was dark, the color of root beer. It made people think it was polluted beyond hope. The general attitude was - who cares. But my family and I are happy to know that those attitudes are changing."
His broadcasting career started in 1976. He began in public broadcasting when he was named news director at KDSU-FM in Fargo, North Dakota in 1985. Before coming to MPR in 1999, Reha was executive producer of High Plains News Service in Billings, Montana.
Reha was diagnosed with leukemia in early 2007, taking a leave of absence from Minnesota Public Radio while being treated at the University of Minnesota. In early June, he learned his illness was no longer treatable, and he was moved to a hospice closer to his home.
His sister, Mary Waldrop, told friends in an e-mail on Saturday, "As I spent my last few days with Bob and I struggled with the fact that I was going to lose him, I found comfort that Bob has always been a trailblazer in one form or another. Whether it was family, theatre, nature or his sense of humor, it seems that he could find a trail that had not been traveled before and lead us all that way."
Reha is survived by six brothers and sisters, and numerous nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents, Vernon and Ruthe.
Services are scheduled for Thursday evening in Adair, Iowa.