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79-Year-Old Disc Jockey’s Radio Station Keeps Retirement Community Plugged In

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CENTENNIAL (CBS4) – Dick Gustafson is spinning the oldies to keep him young.

The 79-year-old resident of the Holly Creek Retirement Community in Centennial is also its disc jockey, playing live radio shows and tunes from the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s from the studios of Holly Creek Radio.

The idea behind the station, he says, is to capture the nostalgia and feeling generated by music of his generation. But he also provides a service: His station informs fellow residents about upcoming events and activities by playing the program’s audio over the community’s television stations.

Dick Gustafson (credit: CBS)

Dick Gustafson (credit: CBS)

“It’s a way of helping people out,” he says.

Gustafson says HCRK — short for Holly Creek Radio — primarily plays music from four genres and has a solid rotation: religious and gospel on Sunday mornings, classical on Sunday afternoons, big band on Saturday mornings, country and western on Saturday afternoons, and some Broadway show tunes on Mondays. The rest of the week, he mixes it up. Twice a day, he plays old radio shows at 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

“The average age here is 82,” he says, “so that gives you an idea of what kind of music they’re going to like. We stay away from the current stuff because most of them don’t like it anyway.”

In other words, no rap, no heavy metal, no rock ‘n’ roll.

“That’s not our thing,” he laughs. “Besides, I can’t stand it, and I wouldn’t put it on in the first place.”

HCRK’s catalog boasts 3,000 to 5,000 songs, many contributed from residents’ own collections, which Gustafson borrows and burns to his station’s computer for later play.

“They bring their music. We play it,” he says.

He occasionally weaves in some tunes from his own collection of 1,000 albums that he’s gathered over the years. His favorite is big band music, a taste acquired during World War II.

HCRK debuted on Aug. 12, 2013, after Gustafson and his wife toured the retirement home. His wife mentioned he had more than six years of radio experience under his belt, so a worker at Holly Creek suggested they start a radio station. Gustafson gave some equipment, an anonymous donor added some more and a radio station was born.

Gustafson’s show is a way for some residents to reconnect with memories.

He recalls a woman told him once during a show that it felt like the ’40s all over again.

“She was dancing in the halls,” he says.

Others told him that if the television didn’t play his station, they wouldn’t even switch it on.

Right now, Gustafson works about 40 hours a week at HCRK alongside five volunteers.

“It’s been a full-time job,” he says. “I hate retirement, to be honest with you. When I first started this thing, I thought it was going to be a hobby. When I found out how much benefit it’s had (for others), it’s turned out to be more than I anticipated.”

In addition to his radio chops, Gustafson has worked in finance, and dabbled in acting, politics and sculpting.

But at Holly Creek, radio is his passion.

“It’s fun,” he says. “When you do something that’s fun and helps other people it makes it worthwhile, and that’s what this is all about.”

- By Tim Skillern, CBSDenver.com

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