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Duke Wright, a pioneer in the worlds of broadcasting and music, was called home to heaven on December 21st, 2022, at the age of 83. He was known for his optimism, kindness, wit, loyalty, free golf lessons and love for his family, friends, and colleagues.
Named Duey Edward Wright Jr., by his loving parents, Duke was given his nickname by a classmate in elementary school. His mother was a music teacher and Duke began learning piano at the age of four, later he learned both bass guitar and upright bass. Finally, he became an extremely talented accordion player. He played in the Duke Wright Orchestra and The Nutones. At the age of fifteen, he hosted a weekly music show on WSAU-TV in Wausau, Wisconsin. His musical abilities earned him an invitation to record on the Columbia record label.
However, Duke's true passion was radio. As a young boy, he was fascinated by the sounds coming from the radio in his living room and wanted to learn everything he could about how they were produced. In 1958, Duke's parents purchased a local Wausau radio station, changed the station name to WRIG and Duke began working there at the age of eighteen. After graduating from Wausau High School, he joined the National Guard and moved to Madison to attend the University of Wisconsin, where he earned a business degree. Upon graduation, he returned home to Wausau and took on the role of General Manager at WRIG.
While promoting WRIG at the Central Wisconsin State Fair in 1972, Duke met his future wife, Pegge, beginning their loving partnership that has lasted over half a century.
His love of radio drew Duke to the hobby of amateur radio. He enjoyed communicating with fellow operators and his K9DJ call sign can be seen on qsl cards hanging in ham shacks around the globe.
In 1971, Duke started Midwest Communications with the building of WROE in Appleton, Wisconsin. A few years later, he competed with Bart Starr for Green Bay's WBAY-AM and FM and moved to Green Bay in 1976 to lead the newly purchased and renamed stations, WGEE and WIXX. Duke and Pegge made Green Bay their home, growing their family and successful business from there. Over the next five decades, Duke built Midwest Communications into one of the largest privately held, family-operated radio broadcasting companies in the United States, with over eighty radio stations in nine states.
Duke was known for his passion for live, local radio and his high-quality standards. He was inducted into the Wisconsin Broadcasters Hall of Fame, the Wisconsin Polka Hall of Fame, and the Wisconsin Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. The latter for his recording of the first rock & roll record in Wisconsin, “Rock & Roll Saddles” on Duke’s Northland Record label.
Duke is survived by his wife Pegge and their four children: Mary Kay Wright of Nashville, Tennessee; Angela (Brian) Radaker of Tryon, North Carolina; Michael Wright of Wausau, Wisconsin, and Jeffrey (Fawn) Wright of Green Bay, Wisconsin. He is also survived by his ten grandchildren: Emily, Jason, Juliana, Brenan, Braylin, Fletcher, Flynn, Brexton, Adin, and Orin.
Duke was always proud of the people he helped to grow and prosper, including his own children and the thousands of creative talents who have worked at Midwest Communications.
Duke lived by the words of his grandfather, always offering "the best quality and service" and bringing out the best in everyone.
A funeral service honoring Duke’s life will be held at 3:00 pm on Thursday December 29, 2022, at Christ Alone Church, 505 E Allouez Ave., with Rev. John Cory officiating.
Relatives and friends may greet the family from 4:00 pm until 8:00 pm on Wednesday December 28, 2022, at The Lyndahl Funeral Home, 1350 Lombardi Ave., and again at Christ Alone Church on Thursday December 29, 2022, from 2:00 pm until the time of service at 3:00 pm. Duke will be laid to rest at Woodlawn Cemetery.
Expressions of sympathy may be sent to the family by visiting www.lyndahl.com.
Per Pegge’s wishes, memorial donations may be sent to the Green Bay Humane Society: https://secure2.convio.net/whs/site/Donation2?df_id=6275&s_oo=PQq86Z8Sr6pydClbLDTzc21XJgyEDyo5BjA7J6jMgmegl9MvvtQnow&s_tlid=40517
The Lyndahl Funeral Home and Cremation Services is assisting the Wright family with arrangements.