Former WTVD reporter Dave Boliek died Monday in Arkansas. His death was confirmed by his daughter, Mary Alice Boliek Bell of Durham.
Boliek worked at WTVD from 1981 to 1997. The last 13 years of his time there he spent as an on-air reporter. Before his stint at the Durham station, Boliek worked at WFMY-TV in Greensboro and at WLOE and WEAF radio stations in Eden.
Boliek, a Hickory native, was obsessed with covering hurricanes, his daughter told The News & Observer. “And hurricanes in our family weren’t just stories my dad covered,” Bell said. “They were history, geology, geography, carpentry and weather lessons.”
Longtime colleague and friend Ed Crump said the thing most people who knew Boliek will remember about him is his sense of humor. He described Boliek as “memorable, offbeat and quirky” both on-air and off.
Boliek covered state government and the legislature for WTVD for years, and Crump said Boliek was able to “cut down complicated stuff into very understandable information.”
Crump said he and Boliek bonded after a tragic WTVD helicopter crash in 1991 claimed the lives of good friends. Jim Lane, Bart Smith and Rick Sherrill died in the crash on Dec. 7, and sports reporter Tony Debo was the only survivor. Crump said he was distraught at home after the news, but Boliek went to the scene and worked.
“I’m at home, a blubbering idiot and crying my eyes out, and Dave had an equal loss and he handled it differently,” Crump said in an interview Monday. “He was the consummate professional. He went out to the scene and did his job and also ID’d the bodies for the sheriff.”
Crump said when Boliek aired his report that night, he said about Crump’s friend: “Whenever you saw Ed Crump in front of the camera, Bart was behind it.” Crump said he has never forgotten that — both Boliek’s words and the way he was able to work through his own grief.
“He knew how to take a few words and make a great story,” Crump said. “I’ve learned more from Dave from osmosis than from anyone who tried to teach me. I’d be struggling to come up with words and he would write the most eloquent TV prose, just effortlessly. He was an example that you watched and were awed by.”
Boliek was also a dog lover, according to his daughter. “I was jealous of all the elderly disabled dogs he adopted,” Bell said. “He fed those dogs better than he ever fed a human.
“The one thing he drilled in my head from the very beginning of my life was this: It’s always better to be lucky than good, but always be good enough to know when you were lucky,” Bell said. “To me, he died the luckiest man I will ever know.”
Boliek left WTVD in 1997 to work full-time with a nonprofit he helped launch the year before. The Centers for Quality Teaching and Learning, also known as ExplorNet, aimed to put computers in North Carolina schools at a time when that was not at all common.
Boliek retired in 2017 and was living in Perryville, Arkansas. He left behind his wife of 11 years, Missy Boliek.
“I loved my dad so much,” Bell said. “He was there when I took my first breaths and it was a privilege to be by his side when he took his last breaths.”