After 50 years in the industry and 34 hosting mornings at WHO Des Moines (1040), Van Harden told longtime listeners of the iHeartMedia news/talker that he will retire in January. In fact, Harden’s last broadcast will take place Jan. 8, 2021, 50 years from when he first cracked the mic in January 1971.
During more than three decades at the station, WHO has amassed thirteen Marconi awards, including five Harden was personally awarded as host of the morning show. Harden and his longtime co-host Bonnie Lucas were inducted into the Iowa Broadcasting Hall of Fame in June 2019.
Over his storied career, Harden has interviewed U.S. Presidents, dignitaries, TV stars, movie stars and nationally prominent figures. But he says his favorite conversations have been with his daily listeners.
Harden is credited with creating the International Leisure Suit convention, which was a national sensation for eight years garnering network TV coverage. He once broadcast from the Winter Olympics in Park City Utah while riding a bobsled down the Olympic run. Other notable broadcasts include shows from NASA for a rocket launch, an overnight stay at the Villisca ax murder house and from the United States Senate Ice Cream social, where his “Van and Bon Bon” ice cream was the hit of the event. Harden is the only person with the unusual distinction of sitting in every seat in both Veteran's Memorial Auditorium and Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.
The reason for retiring now? “After 50 years, why not?” he says. “For years people have asked me if I ever think about retirement and I have told them, 'Yes, at 2:45 weekday mornings.' Getting up has been the biggest challenge of the job and it has gotten more difficult as time has gone on, but I wouldn't trade any of those past mornings for anything.”
In making the announcement of his pending retirement, Harden gave kudos to co-hosts Patti Christensen, Connie Murad and Lucas and singled out WHO GM Joel McCrea. “I have worked under seven different general managers during my time here. All were very good, but I would classify Joel as great, and I know why. He, like I, grew up listening to WHO Radio and understood what it was, what it wasn't and what it should be. And he leads that way to this day.”
Harden also thanked KDLS Perry, where he first started his career and other stops that include KWEN/KRMG Tulsa and KRNT Des Moines. “All of them gave me invaluable trust and experience,” he continued. “And thanks to Palmer Communications who gave me the OK to purchase and operate KLSN radio in Jefferson for several years, while still working at WHO.”
Harden plans to travel with his wife Becky and continue “writing, speaking and inventing a few things here and there.” He may still have a presence at the station, serving as a voice for longstanding clients. “The one thing I won't be doing is getting up at 2:45am,” he said.