BROOKSVILLE - For more than 30 years, Bob Haa was the voice of Hernando County radio.
Many people would tune in to his morning Haa-Wire talk show on WWJB-AM 1450 to hear the sometimes controversial host express his strong views on politics.
Haa, who suffered from several health problems in recent years, died Monday afternoon at Brooksville Regional Hospital - where he had been hospitalized the past week - from acute respiratory distress, according to a radio official. He was 65.
J.R. Scicluna is a newscaster on the station who worked with Haa for 20 years and called him a "tough nut to crack."
"Bob was quite the unique character," Scicluna said. "He was very passionate in what he wanted to express. He was very passionate about this community (and) about politics."
Scicluna said Haa's conservative Republican views did not endear him to everyone in the community. He was either loved or hated, he said. Some people declined to be a guest on his show. It was a major coup, he said, when he got Democrat Diane Rowen to appear on the Haa-Wire many years ago.
"Bob thrived on situations," Scicluna said. "He did what he believed in and what thought was best for the community. It's pretty simple - if he had all the facts, he would fight you tooth and nail.
"He probably had enemies, like everybody does, but Bob was very passionate about his stance on things political."
In 2009, for example, U.S. Secret Service agents visited Haa after he made on-air comments that a listener construed as advocating physical harm to Pres. Barack Obama. They later dismissed the incident.
Haa tried to mix things up on his morning show, labeling each workday with such concepts as Moanin' Monday, Get it Off Your Chest Friday and Wednesday: the mountain of midweek.
His survey Thursdays would take topical local and national issues and get responses from the community.
His "Bad Joke Tuesday" was meant to be a commentary on what he thought were frequently bad decisions coming from county commission meetings held every Tuesday.
Peggy Hope, WWJB traffic and office manager, said the station was somber Tuesday as the news sunk in that Haa had died.
"It was a shock to me, it really was," Hope said. "It's just very sad."
Haa's death comes three months after another long-time WWJB host, Bob Penrod, died from ALS at 73.
Hope said Haa was married to Andi Haa, had five children, grandkids and great grandchildren.
"He really was a very caring person," she said. "Bob had a work side and he was great at his job, at what he did. But Bob really was a very caring person. He was always very good to me."
Hope said Haa researched political issues before the show aired and was knowledgable.
"It's just going to be hard to believe there won't be a Haa-Wire show," she said.
Craig Bolton was a frequent listener to the Bob Haa Show even though he didn't like his conservative views.
Bolton said he could be divisive, was sometimes unkind to Democrat callers and was often disrespectful to guests whose views he didn't agree with. Bolton said once Haa realized callers were on the opposing side of the political spectrum, he would go on the attack and frequently cut them off.
But Bolton said he still tuned in to the show to see what the latest discussion was about.
"He knew how to push people's buttons," Bolton said. "I don't know what he believed when he left the station and went home."
Bolton said he sometimes called into the station and he and Haa had lively discussion about politics.
"I was like a boxer," Bolton said. "I wanted to knock him out in the first round."
Despite his frequent disagreements with Haa, Bolton said he respected him for his obvious talent and his popularity in local radio.
"Obviously, the man found himself a niche and must have been doing something right because he had been doing it for over 30 years."