John Rovick gained legions of loyal fans from nearly two decades as a host in Los Angeles during the early years of television. He earned an Emmy Award in 1953 and was recognized at the 50th anniversary of the Emmy Awards in 1998.
But Rovick didnt talk about it much, unless someone asked.
He was the most humble person you could ever know. He never bragged, said Boisean Wes Seideman, who knew Rovick for years before he learned of his friends remarkable life story.
Rovick, 93, died Saturday at a Boise nursing facility.
The Toledo, Ohio, native enlisted and went to war in 1942, less than a year after earning a degree in speech/dramatics and broadcasting. As a member of the U.S. Army Air Corps, he participated in 50 bombing missions in the Mediterranean.
Rovick found his way to radio and then TV in the late 1940s. He was hired as an announcer at a California TV station, then presented with the opportunity to host a childrens show.
He was given a week to come up with the concept.
I sat down to do a show we thought would be on four to six weeks, and it lasted 18 years, Rovick told the Statesmans Tim Woodward in 2005.
Rovick began Cartoon Time in 1952 at KTTV, which evolved into Sheriff Johns Lunch Brigade.
A half-century later, Sheriff John fans mourned online.
This is it, the end of an era, wrote Richard Stellar of TheWrap.com. Sheriff Johns Lunch Brigade was the American Idol of my generation. He had the X Factor.
Rovick, who dressed in khakis and wore a badge, started each show by singing, Come on, now, laugh and be happy and the world will laugh with you.
Sheriff John was a kind and caring father figure who taught kids about safety, manners and patriotism. He celebrated kids birthdays and sang a special birthday song.
We have lost a light. Sheriff John taught us many wonderful traits to make us good adults. My brothers and I still sing the Sheriff John Birthday Song to each other each year, Laurie Julian said on the Sheriff John Facebook page.
Sheriff John was famous at least in Los Angeles years before Captain Kangaroo or Mr. Rogers took to the air. His show inspired many knockoffs, including Boises Sheriff Spud, Honolulus Sheriff Ken and San Franciscos Deputy Dave.
Many California transplants recognized Rovick after he retired to Boise in the early 1980s.
I can attest to the California invasion, he told the Statesman in 2005. I had a heart attack five years ago, and the Boise doctor who saved my life turned out to be a Sheriff John fan. My dentist is a fan, and so are three of the people at the clinic where I get my eyes checked.
Rovick said good fishing drew him to Idaho.
Described as warm and friendly to all he met, Rovick was an active member in the Boise Friends Church until about a year ago, when illness prevented him from getting to services, Seideman said.
He was a great musician and had an awesome baritone voice, Seideman said. He entertained us royally with both song and story.
A song by Rovick will be played at a memorial service at 1 p.m. Thursday at the Boise Friends Church, 7751 Goddard Road in Boise. Burial with military honors will follow at Dry Creek Cemetery.
Katy Moeller: 377-6413
March 31, 2005
TV's Sheriff John still thrills his fans
By Tim Woodward
John Rovick retired in Boise because he liked Idaho's uncrowded fishing waters. Twenty-four years later, many Boiseans still don't know they're living with a television legend in their midst.
His fans know, though. Hardly a week goes by that some supposedly mature adult doesn't accost Rovick with a childlike grin and shout, "Sheriff John!"
"I can attest to the California invasion, " he said. "I had a heart attack five years ago, and the Boise doctor who saved my life turned out to be a Sheriff John fan. My dentist is a fan, and so are three of the people at the clinic where I get my eyes checked.
"I was walking in to a store the other day, and a woman gasped and said, 'Sheriff John!' It just doesn't stop. It's amazing that it's been so many years ago and people still remember the impact the show had on their lives."
Boisean Christi Campbell , one of the ex-Californians who works at the eye clinic, watched Sheriff John over lunch "every day from age 3 to 5. We'd have lunch all laid out, and he'd teach us manners and how to be polite and responsible. To anyone who grew up in Southern California, he was a hero. When we met him at the clinic, we all went home and called all our friends."
Even if you didn't grow up in Southern California, you may have grown up with a Sheriff John. Boise had Sheriff Spud. We watched him every day and all but idolized him.
"I never met him, but I was the model for Sheriff Spud, " Rovick said. "And Deputy Dave in San Francisco, and Sheriff Ken in Honolulu ... If something works, it spreads. Television is the biggest copycat there is."
Television then was in its infancy. Rovick, who had radio experience, was given less than a week to come up with the concept for a live show for kids. As if that weren't sufficient motivation, he was told that he'd be its host -- starting the following Monday.
"I sat down to do a show we thought would be on four to six weeks, and it lasted 18 years, " he said.
The show began as "Cartoon Time, " then changed to "Sheriff John's Lunch Brigade." It mixed cartoons with Sheriff John's banter, advice and singing. It's a measure of his influence that his fans are still able to sing every word of the show's birthday song. (I know it's true because two of them work in the Statesman's newsroom. You should have seen their eyes sparkle when they found out who I was interviewing this week.)
On the show's 15th anniversary, the city of Los Angeles held a Sheriff John week in recognition of his public service to children.
"We talked a lot about safety, courtesy, manners and things like that, " Rovick said. "We often had firemen or police officers as guests, and I'd warn the kids not to do things like play in the street or get into refrigerators or play with matches."
Rovick still gets fan mail from as far away as Australia . People call and ask him to sing the birthday song to their spouses. But he didn't fully realize how much he meant to so many until 1998, when he was invited to attend the 50th anniversary of the Emmy Awards.
Michael Richards, "Kramer" of "Seinfeld" fame , introduced Rovick as one of his early influences, showed the audience the Sheriff John badge he counted among his treasures and gave the startled Rovick not one but two hugs.
Tom Hanks , Rovick said, was running around the dinner party yelling, "Where the hell is Sheriff John?" He wanted to use the birthday song in "Bosom Buddies."
"I ran into Jay Leno while he was getting a soft drink and told him how much I'd enjoyed his show. He said 'thanks' and walked away. Then Mary Tyler Moore walked in, said 'Hi, John, ' and we talked a while. Suddenly I heard this voice yelling, 'Sheriff John, Sheriff John!' It was Leno. His wife had bawled him out for not recognizing me. He apologized twice."
But it wasn't celebrities that kept Sheriff John on the air for nearly two decades.
"The kids always came first, " he said. "To some of them, I was a father figure. That was the best thing about being Sheriff John. A lot of those kids really loved me."