Art Blum, KONA personality who photographed beauty pageants and crash scenes, has died

Art Blum, longtime broadcaster, salesman and engineer for KONA Radio, died Tuesday.
Art Blum, longtime broadcaster, salesman and engineer for KONA Radio, died Tuesday.

Jack Arthur “Art” Blum, a longtime Tri-Cities radio personality who photographed crime scenes, beauty pageants and weddings, died Tuesday in Kennewick.

He was 76.

His death was announced by the Miss Tri-Cities Pageant, which he supported for nearly half a century.

Blum served as the pageant’s photographer and announcer and supported the production team with music selections.

He covered the pageant live on KONA in the 1960s and was a dear friend to the organization and the pageant contestants over the years, said Dot Stewart, executive director.

He created videos, served as webmaster and helped the hopefuls with their music. Although he scaled back his involvement in 2017 due to worsening health, he returned to announce the 2018 pageant. Stewart had hoped he would return for 2019 as well.

“He was a very dear friend and I will miss him,” she said.

Blum assisted law enforcement

Blum was also a volunteer deputy for the Benton County Sheriff’s Office, photographing crime scenes and vehicle wrecks for about 30 years.

He reported from the scene by radio and supplied documentary photos to insurance companies and law enforcement.

He also took care to take less-vivid images to sell to the Tri-City Herald.

“Art was always at every major crime and major accident scene for many years, and many of his photos appeared in the Tri-City Herald,” said Ken Robertson, retired executive editor.

Mike Berriochoa was a longtime friend, dating to their days together at KONA.

Blum loved gadgets and was one the first to embrace personal computing. At KONA, he was the informal help desk, with a knack for solving computer problems that stumped the experts.

A pilot, Berriochoa often flew Blum on missions to record accident scenes.

“Art was an amazing, creative talent. He was the kind of guy you wanted to be around,” Berriochoa said.

Michael McDonnal, KONA’s operations manager, recalled Blum as a helpful and always-smiling colleague who left his fingerprints on the entire organization.

Blum’s legacy includes the student-run radio at Tri-Tech Skills Center, which introduced generations of students to broadcast.

“There was not a better individual you could work with,” he said.

Jackie and Art Blum celebrated their 50th anniversary on July 7, 2014, with a dinner at Anthony’s restaurant in Richland.

The couple married in Spokane in 1964 and moved to the Tri-Cities the following year. They made their home in Kennewick.

Worked 42 years for KONA

Blum began his radio career at KONA in the early 1960s. He was an on-air announcer who moved into advertising sales and then engineering.

He left KONA in 2007 after 42 years to join Seattle-based New Northwest Broadcasters as studio engineer, overseeing the technical side of radio production across the Pacific Northwest.

He later worked part time as a broadcast engineer for Northwest Public Radio at Washington State University and belonged to the Society of Broadcast Engineers.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by two daughters and several grandchildren.

Mueller’s Tri-Cities Funeral Home is in charge of the arrangements.

Wendy Culverwell writes about local government and politics, focusing on how those decisions affect your life. She also covers key business and economic development changes that shape our community. Her restaurant column and health inspection reports are reader favorites. She’s been a news reporter in Washington and Oregon for 25 years.