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Radio show brings a little bit of Deutschland to Tampa Bay

(ran SS edition of METRO & STATE)

Kurt Ortmann remembers the air raids that crumbled Berlin's streets and brought an end to the war. "The air raids were bad," the Seminole resident recalled recently. "The hunger _ that was worse."

He was 12 years old when World War II ended, and he spent the rest of his youth helping family and friends pick up the pieces of their lives.

Then in 1954, while in his early 20s, he moved to Detroit. He worked as a machinist in the auto industry before getting his own German language show on a Detroit radio station. It would become his life's passion.

He brought his radio show to Pinellas County in 1974 and has been doing it ever since. The show can be heard mornings from 8 to 10 on WLVU-AM 1470 in Dunedin.

"I'll never be rich," said Ortmann, 64, "but making money should never be your only goal. Never. Everybody talks about making money but never about earning it."

Ortmann earns the money he makes.

Everything that has to do with his radio program, Deutsche Funksendung or "German radio broadcast," Ortmann does himself.

He is the program director, advertising director, copy writer, disc jockey and bookkeeper. "You can have (a paid staff) if you're a big radio station, but I'm not," he said.

WLVU's general manager, Frank Ferreri, said Ortmann has always bought his own time slot and found his own advertisers.

"He's an independent businessman," Ferreri said. "And he's providing a valuable service."

A vibrant audience exists for German radio, Ortmann said. He estimates at least a quarter-million people of German descent call the Tampa Bay area home. And then there are the tourists.

"The tourists, they like to hear German weather," Ortmann said. "It makes them feel really special."

Ortmann likes to provide the service. He maintains a satellite link to Germany to gather up-to-the-minute news flashes. He plays German music for all generations, from a German version of La Macarena to old favorite Danke Schoen by Bert Kaempfert. English is rarely heard on his show. Even the ads are in German.

He loves the business.

"It all comes down to creativity and purpose," he said. "You have to find that, or it doesn't matter what you do. Rich people are miserable just like poor people for that very reason."

He can speak German, talk about Germany and play German music all he wants. And he's paid to do so. To Ortmann, that is living the high life.

His wife, Ruth, whom he met in Germany shortly after the war, feels the same way. She loved Germany so much, Ortmann said, that she was reluctant to come to America.

"She counted every step to the airplane," he said. "She was counting."

So Ortmann has kept Germany alive as best he could stateside ever since.

"Germany, to me, is always celebrating something," he said. "And there is so much beauty. The countryside and the food. I miss it, I do."