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'I think what I did was positive' | Legendary reporter, WHAS Crusade for Children director Bud Harbsmeier dies

Bud spent 39 years at WHAS-TV as a crime reporter with 19 of those directing America's largest telethon, the WHAS Crusade for Children.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Bud Harbsmeier, who joined WHAS TV when the news department was just 11 years old, died Saturday at the age of 86.

He had been battling kidney cancer and died with his great family around him.

Bud covered every major news story that happened in this area as a veteran street reporter. He covered the civil rights movement, school desegregation rulings and the riots that followed. He was attacked by protestors.

Harbsmeier was “ALL” Louisville. He grew up here, graduated from Shawnee High School, earned his B.A. from the University of Louisville and studied combat photography at the University of Oklahoma.

He is an army veteran.

After covering news so many years, he decided it was time to get a break.

The general manager of WHAS-TV at the time, Bob Morse, asked him to become the new director of the WHAS Crusade for Children because the legendary Phyllis Knight was retiring.

Credit: WHAS-TV
Bud Harbsmeier

Bud jumped at the chance and never looked back.

During Bud’s 19 years leading the Crusade, annual donations rose from $1.6 million to $5.9 million, turning the WHAS Crusade for Children into the most successful local telethon in America.

He retired in 2000 and the Crusade created “The Buddy Award,” an honor given annually to a Crusade volunteer who exemplifies the spirit and dedication of Bud Harbsmeier.

In retirement, Bud joined the Highview Fire Department as a member of the Board of Directors.

Bud appeared with Highview during this year’s Crusade for Children in June. He proudly announced the Highview total of $91,550.

On a personal note, when I was a high school intern here in 1979, Bud was still the crime beat reporter and he insisted on working the Saturday dayside shift to stay on top of what had happened Friday night.

He would arrive in the morning with a lunch box, a Thermos of coffee, a notepad and handheld tape recorder. He and photographer Donnie Ruark would tell me to get in the back on the car and away we went.

Credit: WHAS-TV
Bud Harbsmeier and Melissa Swan, left, interviewing guests during the WHAS Crusade for Children.

Bud would cover the hard news lead story of the day, then zip around town also picking up the weekend event stories that would fill the entire 30-minute 6 p.m. news. He used the handheld tape recorder to also record sound for WHAS Radio News to do reports for them.

Before he would leave for the day, he would leave a recut of his main story for the 11 p.m. news. He was the hardest working, shoe leather reporter I had ever seen. Everyone knew him, and his sources made sure Bud had the story first.

Bud Harbsmeier is survived by his two sisters, Dixie Mattingly and Pat Stratton, his three sons: Curt, Craig (Paula) & Kent (Debbie), and 4 grandchildren Kristen Alvarez (Justin), Alexis, Kyle & Katlyn Harbsmeier.

Funeral arrangements are as follows:

Visitation - Friday, Dec. 17
3 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Fern Creek Funeral Home - 5406 Bardstown Rd.

Funeral - Saturday, Dec. 18
10:30 a.m.
St. Gabriel - 5505 Bardstown Rd.

Cards and donations can be sent to:

WHAS Crusade for Children
520 West Chestnut St.
Louisville KY 40202

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