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Radio personality Cadigan dead at 81

Pat Cadigan laughs during the broadcast of the Midwest Polka Party at the KDAL studios in July 2002. Cadigan died Monday at the age of 81. (file / News Tribune)

John Lundy

Forum News Service

In poor health and long past normal retirement age, Pat Cadigan continued to speak to the Northland through the airwaves because it was what he loved to do, longtime radio co-host Rik Jordan said.

“He loved being Pat Cadigan on the radio on KDAL,” Jordan said.

A fixture on the Duluth radio station for decades and an enthusiastic promoter of polka music, Charles Patrick Cadigan died on Monday morning, according to Midwest Communications, the radio station’s owner, citing family sources. He was 81.  

A Superior native, Cadigan worked at KDAL from 1961-74 and again from 1982 until his death. He had been off the air in recent weeks.

Cadigan earlier had been off the air for several months after suffering a stroke, Jordan said.

“He was pretty sick for his last two years,” Jordan said. “He really toughed through it. He was a tough guy.”

Soon after he returned to the radio station after a stint in real estate, Cadigan was paired with Jordan to be the on-air voices for KDAL’s morning show. It was a partnership that continued for 26 years, until Jordan’s retirement.

Although Jordan was the younger man, Cadigan was a high-energy figure, Jordan said.

“He was really exciting when he came back in the early ’80s,” Jordan said. “He was really rocking and bopping and jumping. The control room, it really hopped. … When I came to work with him in the morning I had to calm him down.”

Having co-hosts for a radio show was a new idea in Duluth at the time, Jordan said, and certainly was new to KDAL.

They adopted personas that didn’t entirely match their real-life personalities, Jordan said. He recalled having coffee with Cadigan soon after their co-hosting duties began.

“I was the young guy; I was probably in the situation to be the rebel,” he recalled. “We talked about it, and at the time I was coaching little league baseball and little kids hockey. … So Pat and I kind of made a pact that he’d be the bad guy. … I said, ‘Would you mind if I stayed super squeaky clean?’ He said, ‘That sounds like fun.’ ”

Jordan would refer to Cadigan as “the strangest person I’ve ever known,” and Cadigan called Jordan “Mr. KIA — Mister Know It All.”

In time, the distinctions faded, Jordan said. “Over the years we kind of morphed into one person.”

Kristi Stokes, now president of the Greater Downtown Council, worked with the pair as news director for KDAL in the 1990s.

“They were the voice of our station, and they were the ones people wanted to see when we went out to things,” Stokes said. “They always asked: ‘How’s Cadigan? How’s Jordan?’ ”

People also loved Cadigan because of his love for polka, Jordan said.

Cadigan, a member of the Polka Hall of Fame, hosted a Saturday morning show called “Midwest Polka Party” for several years on KDAL and performed for 13 years with the Chmielewski Fun Time Orchestra.

Band leader Florian Chmielewski said Cadigan was his best friend.

“We went to the top of the charts, and I could never have done that without Pat Cadigan,” said Chmielewski, 90.

Cadigan first worked the overnight shift at KDAL in 1961 after previous radio jobs at WEBC, WDSM and WQMN, according to the station’s announcement. He was one of the first radio disc jockeys in the area to play rock 'n' roll.

“He was a real legend in this community, and he was greatly loved,” said Shawn Skramstad, vice president and market manager of the Duluth Midwest Communications properties.

Cadigan and Jordan were among those who made KDAL the go-to station in times of storms or major events, such as “Toxic Tuesday” in 1992, when thousands were forced to evacuate from the Twin Ports after toxic vapors were released in a train derailment, Stokes said.

“I never thought he would stop,” she said of Cadigan. “He loved radio. He just loved the business, and I think he loved being on the air and providing a service to the community.”