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The man widely regarded as the “dean of Christian talk radio” has died at the age of 65.

Beloved Los Angeles-area personality Rich Buhler, host of “Talk from the Heart” on KBRT AM in Costa Mesa, Calif., died May 7 after battling pancreatic cancer for nearly two years.

Veteran Christian broadcaster Warren Duffy, who served as a fill-in host for Buhler, told the Christian Examiner Buhler was “a true pioneer in Christian broadcasting.”

“All of us who are Christian broadcasters have walked into the field of talk radio through the door that Rich Buhler opened up for us when he launched his ‘Talk From The Heart’ program on KBRT decades ago,” Duffy said.

David Gripenwaldt, a friend and colleague at KBRT when the show was launched in 1981, said Buhler “was fearlessly talking about things that no one else was – eating disorders, sex traffic.”

“He was the first voice of the Christian community for thousands of people,” Gripenwaldt said, according to the Orange County Register.

Buhler had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in July 2010 and did his final show Sept. 16, 2011, to focus on his declining health.

Gripenwaldt recalled more than 30 years ago when Buhler served as a “news guy” at KBRT during the station’s music format hours, the Register reported. When the station moved to a talk format, Buhler expressed interest in trying it out.

“Talk from the Heart” was born, airing daily from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.

“On Christian radio, there was nothing like it,” Gripenwaldt said in a KBRT tribute show May 9, according to the Register. “He migrated to giving his advice, taking open phone calls, and people realized this guy’s really good.”

A statement from his family upon his death said Buhler “is now face to face with Jesus.”

“We are grieving in our souls but rejoicing in Christ!”

On the tribute show, Gripenwaldt recalled Buhler “might to do a show on recipes because he loved cooking, but he dealt with hard issues and told people where they could go for help.”

“KBRT became the megaphone,” he said. “He changed people’s lives.”

Roger Marsh, who took over Buhler’s time slot with co-host David Housholder, said Buhler, an ordained minister, combined pastoral training with “broadcast chops” when he said, “Let’s go to the phones.”

Buhler’s funeral, open to the public, is planned for Saturday at Vineyard Christian Fellowship in Anaheim, Calif. Details will be made available at CaringBridge.org.

He is survived by his wife Dianne and their combined 10 children and 12 grandchildren.

Buhler was interviewed for the last time six days before he died by Steve Arterburn, Dr. John Townand and Dr. Dave Stoop on their show “New Life Live.”

Listen to the interview with Rich Buhler:

Buhler noted that when he began his show, it was unusual in Christian radio to talk about “hurtful things” such as sexual abuse.

“I remember one pastor, after I came on the air, characterizing my program as just airing dirty laundry,” he said.

Buhler said his “simple rule of thumb,” the path toward wholeness, is “to know the truth, the truth about God and the truth about me.”

“We have gone through a long season of the Christian community, of people, being dedicated to learning the truth about God … hopelessly out of touch with the truth about themselves,” he observed.

Conversely, he said many secular counselors fail to “bring in the truth about God.”

After Buhler hung up the phone, one of the hosts commented: “He’s finishing well.”

Celebration of life

After he was diagnosed with inoperable pancreatic cancer, Buhler was honored Oct. 28, 2010, with a special “Life Celebration” sponsored by KBRT that included tributes from Pat and Shirley Boone, Ralph Carmichael, Hal Lindsey, Barry McGuire, Darrell Mansfield and Paul Finkenbinder. Written and spoken tributes were sent in from Jim and Shirley Dobson, Cliff Barrows, Ted Baehr and Franklin Graham.

Rich Buhler

Buhler began his radio career in Los Angeles at the age of 17 as an announcer at a local FM station. He went on to become a writer, editor and producer at radio stations KFWB and KNX.

Buhler told radio historian Don Barrett, in the book “Los Angeles Radio People,” of “a powerful spiritual renewal in the mid-1970s that changed my direction to a career in ministry.”

Southern California-based Christian writer Dan Wooding described Buhler as a “voice for spiritual renewal, for protecting the unborn, and an advocate for those who have experienced what he calls ‘emotional injury’ from physical, emotional, sexual abuse or neglect.”

Wooding noted that Buhler and his wife, Dianne, ministered to married couples, those who had experienced divorce, single parents and blended families.

Buhler was the author of several books that dealt with “emotional injury,” including bestsellers “Love, No Strings Attached” and “Pain and Pretending.”

He took part in numerous film and television projects as host, performer, voice-over announcer, actor or writer and has been a member of the Writer’s Guild and of Pacific Pioneer Broadcasters in Hollywood, Wooding reported.

In addition, Buhler was a recognized researcher and writer about myths and urban legends. The creator of TruthOrFiction.com, a Snopes-style website that researches Internet stories, his articles appeared in many newspapers and magazines internationally. He made appearances on major networks, including CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, CBC, MSNBC, Fox News, BBC and MTV.

A graduate of Biola University and Omega Center, he was honored with awards from Toastmaster’s International, the Southern California Motion Picture Council, the Christian Action Council and Religion in Media.

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