For nearly 60-years Jan and Larry Hestand have lived and worked throughout the country, but now they are making plans to just fish and sit after agreeing to sell their radio stations in Grove and Miami.
Their stories are colorful and filled with joy. Larry says he was born in “the suburbs of Bernice” in a two-room log cabin with no running water. Jan has a similar story. She was born in rural Greenland, Ark., also in a two-room log cabin. But her cabin outpaced Larry’s by having running water.
Larry talks about his one-room schoolhouse and his third-grade class. One day during a live broadcast, one of his third-grade classmates entered the studio. He recalls telling the audience that “All but one of my third-grade classmates just came to see me!” He failed to note that there were only three members in his third-grade class.
Larry’s childhood is filled with memories around Grand Lake. His father was an “oiler” on a steam shovel that dug the rock for the north end of Sailboat Bridge. Prior to its construction, there was only a ferry linking Copeland to Grove and Bernice residents went to town in Afton at the Bassett Grocery and the Livingston Dry Goods stores.
Larry’s parents soon left the area following work to Vimta and then to the Kansas City area. After graduating from high school, Larry attended Evangel College in Springfield. It was a good choice, as Jan was also there. Soon after meeting the two married and began their life-long and varied partnership.
After a brief career with Western Electric in the Kansas City area, the couple moved to Fayetteville to allow Larry to finish his degree at the University of Arkansas. While attending college he worked as an accountant with Campbell Foods buying chicken feed for the entire region. His talents caught the eye of management and soon they were off to Chicago with the company. It was there at Northwestern College that Larry finished his marketing degree. Meantime Jan was teaching at Wheaton College.
Larry’s purchasing career continued to advance at Campbells including becoming the meat buyer for the entire Midwest region. Along the way, he also supervised the construction of a 300,000 square foot mushroom plant at a cost of $13 million.
His skills didn’t go unnoticed and he was named the Associate Dean of medical technology for the Allied Health School in Chicago dealing with medical technology. That position eventually led him back to Oklahoma, where he was named the Associated Dean for the Oral Roberts Medical and Dental Schools.
He was one of six men who helped establish the City of Faith Hospital which not only featured major innovative breakthroughs in hospital design but started the trend in holistic medicine. “The project took into account total health needs including both the mind and body. We were the first to recognize the need for hospitals to not just to treat an illness, but to treat the patient’s whole body, mind and spirit.”
The couple also created a giftware company in Tulsa. But eventually, the couple moved again, this time to Philadelphia where Larry was Vice President of Purchasing for an auto parts manufacturer where he supervised a $50 million purchasing budget.
Tiring of the east coast the couple returned in 1991 to Oklahoma City where they became involved with a friend who was attempting to license a non-commercial radio station. Larry says they really didn’t know anything about the radio business, but soon were deeply involved and it led to the couple’s purchasing KGBE in Grove. At that time, it was a struggling 3,000-watt station that was housed in a trailer with antiquated equipment.
One of Larry’s friends, Roger King, was a communications engineer and he and the Hestands decided to transform it into a 6,000-watt station and eventually to a 14.5-watt station with a 420-foot tower. In 1998, the Grove stations were transformed into the digital age with an investment that cost about $30,000 to upgrade the Grove stations.
In 1999, the couple also purchased Vimta’s KGND station and moved the studio to Grove. An investment in a station in Nowata led them into changing a 50,000-watt station into a 100,000-watt station. When the conversion was completed in August 2004, it was only a few weeks later that Oklahoma State University stepped in to purchase the station and move it to Stillwater.
“We never just looked at making money. We wanted to make the correct decision and then money followed,” Larry noted.
In 2007 the couple purchased two Miami stations and then to widen the audience to include the Joplin area, purchased a Eureka station KESA to allow that to happen.
“We have always had good people. That has been the key to our success in the radio business. Everybody does their job and watches over our business.”
Fifteen years ago, the couple bought 40 acres just south of the Honey Creek Bridge. Larry says they have two Tennessee Walkers that decorate a pasture along with dogs. Soon the weekly brush hogging and mowing may end, as the couple has decided to downsize after selling the Grove and Miami stations to Grove businessman Mark Linn.
“We wanted the stations to be owned locally. The Hestands know the importance of a radio station in a community. Larry was president of the Grove Rotary Club when he gathered 11 others on a committee to buy the former Walmart store as a Civic Center for the town. “With the assistance of Jana Jae, we raised $300,000 and got a city use tax to make the purchase. “I got the honor of signing the deed for the city for the Civic Center.”
In addition, Hestand has been honored by the chamber for work on projects including the passage of school bond elections and for supporting the building of a new hospital in town.
Larry has never forgotten his mother’s favorite Biblical sayings of, “Jesus called the Twelve and said, ‘If anyone wants to be first, he must be the last of all and the servant of all.”’