People used to tell M.T. Hyatt that her husband’s voice was something you could fall in love with.
Her response to the statement about John Hyatt – Johnny to his friends – was simple: “I’d say, ‘I did.’ “
That deep voice is one of the many things she will remember about the Albuquerque resident, golf aficionado, radio personality and broadcast producer behind Rich Ford commercials for 40 years that included the “Which Ford? Rich Ford!” slogan.
“Sometimes he’d bark; sometimes he’d be real quiet,” M.T. Hyatt said. “When he wanted to, he had a lot of warmth and charm in his voice.”
John Hyatt died Sunday after a long battle with an illness. The husband, father, grandfather and uncle was 69.
They were years full of life, his wife said.
“He lived hard, and he played hard,” she said. “I don’t know how many thousands of commercials he must have done.”
Hyatt lent his voice to Rich Ford commercials until weeks before his death, she said, and when it became too weak, he continued working behind the scenes.
Even the day before his death, he wore a smile and told jokes, recalled a good friend.
“To be dying . . . yet find the ability to find some humor hours before you pass away really was almost unbelievable,” said Hi Roberts, who knew Hyatt for about a third of a century. “He knew what he was facing for years, yet still found a way to be upbeat virtually every day. That was really kind of magical.”
Hyatt could also work magic on the putting green, noted Roberts, who played on the University of New Mexico golf team.
“He’s probably the best putter I ever knew,” Roberts said. “Everybody was always jealous of how good of a putter he was.”
What set Hyatt apart was his affinity for the course, his ability to feel the green and shoot with pure finesse, he said.
It’s a finesse Roberts saw in John Hyatt’s career, too.
“He was a real, big-time professional in his occupation,” he said. “He had a phenomenal amount of pride in his work.”
It’s a career that began as a radio announcer for stations in North Dakota, according to the obituary written by his wife. He did the same type of work in Chicago and Minneapolis before moving to the Duke City in 1965.
Here, he began as a morning personality on KKOB-AM, then known as KOB-AM. He was also instrumental in the launch of KOB-FM and worked on advertising for the State Fair. He made thousands of radio and TV commercials for car dealers, and got involved with numerous charity events.
“He hustled,” M.T. Hyatt said. “He mentored a lot of young people in radio and TV production. I think they all called him `Dad’ for a while. Pretty soon, they started calling him `Grandpa.'”
When one of John Hyatt’s long-time friends and colleagues, Dennis Snyder, met him in 1976, there was some confusion.
“I knew Johnny’s voice before I knew Johnny,” said Snyder, general manager at Rich Ford. “I thought he’d be 6-foot and 230 (pounds).”
But that big voice, he recalls, came in a body that was about 165 pounds and 5-foot-10.
“He had a very distinctive voice,” he said. “People knew it was Johnny and Rich Ford, even to this day.”
Since Hyatt died, Snyder says he receives about half as many e-mails. Hyatt sent him many, many jokes, he said.
“He had a great sense of humor, but some of them might not be suitable for print,” Snyder said with a laugh.
Hyatt approached his work with unrelenting professionalism that showed in well-crafted details of his marketing efforts, Snyder recalled.
“Personally, the part that I’ll miss most is not seeing him across the microphone when we’re doing radio spots,” Snyder said. “You kind of struggle with your friend being gone.”
Others noticed when Hyatt stopped doing commercials, he said.
“Since he quit doing the spots four or five weeks ago, people are asking, `How come Johnny’s not leading into you these days?'” he said. “He just had a very versatile talent there, and he was very consistent. He just had a knack for reading good spots.”
In 30 years of friendship, Snyder said Hyatt taught him not only how to do better marketing, but how to better befriend people.
“Anyone that met him and spent any time with him realized what a good friend he would be,” he said. “He stuck up for his friends like no other.”