A familiar, reliable and trusted voice on Baltimore radio airwaves for more than three decades has been silenced. David Harvey “Detour Dave” Sandler Jr. died March 14 after a long battle with cardiac and lung problems. He was 58.
“I’m deeply saddened by the passing of Detour Dave Sandler,” tweeted his longtime friend and radio colleague Josh Spiegel. “My thoughts and condolences go out to Dave’s family, friends and fans. He was an amazing guy who touched so many lives. I last saw Dave a month ago and he still had a smile.”
Tweeted Ron Matz of WJZ-TV: “Sad to hear about the passing of Detour Dave Sandler of WBAL and 98 Rock. A calm voice in the traffic storm. Thinking of his family today. “
A Baltimore native and 1979 graduate of Pikesville High School, Sandler worked as a traffic reporter and personality on WBAL News Radio and 98 Rock until July of 2017.
Sandler, who lived in Reisterstown with his wife of 34 years, Jody, graduated in 1983 from the University of Maryland-College Park with a bachelor’s degree in radio and television broadcasting.
He began his career at WCBM Radio, working as a sports talk show producer. After a few other sports and news radio jobs — as well as an occasional shift as a disc jockey — Sandler worked as a midday traffic reporter for Metro Traffic Control, delivering reports and updates for several Baltimore radio and TV stations.
In December of 1986, he was hired as a traffic reporter by WBAL and 98 Rock. He worked full-time at the Hearst Corp.-owned stations until his position became part-time in 2012.
At one point in his career, Sandler bought his own small plane and started the company Detour Dave Inc. The nickname “Detour Dave” — which Sandler said was coined by local deejay Chris Emry — helped him gain professional recognition and popularity in the region.
Besides his career as a radio personality, Sandler was a motivational speaker, owned an aerial photography business and was a well-known deejay at b’nai mitzvah and other private affairs for more than 25 years.
Sandler originally delivered his traffic reports from a small Cessna airplane before airing from the radio station on Television Hill, starting in 2001, usually during drive-time shifts in the mornings and afternoons.
In July of 2017, he was released by the station for undisclosed reasons. “I’m disappointed,” Sandler told Jmore at the time. “Obviously, I never envisioned myself doing anything different from what I’m doing now. In that aspect, it’s disappointing. I’m going to use this as a springboard for optimism, but I also feel like I’m going to be missing that old friend that’s very, very easy to go to every day. …
“There’s always the reservation of, and a little bit of angst, until you know what’s going to happen,” Sandler said of his professional future. “You’re always scared, and you always feel like there’s a possibility of not having something happen nice. I always choose to look at it more positively than negatively. The fact is, there are a lot of nice opportunities if you look for them. It’s the end of an incredibly long and enjoyable career. … You couldn’t leave a situation like this and not feel some sadness because it’s all I really know. It’s been a great run.”
Sandler was also the author of “Taking a Detour: Life Lessons from a Near-Death Experience and the Long Journey Back” (Apprentice House). In that 2016 book, Sandler wrote about his myriad health and professional challenges over the years.
In 1982, he was treated for Hodgkin’s disease, and he suffered sudden cardiac arrest and nearly died while playing in a softball game at Northwest Regional Park in Owings Mills a decade ago.
Sandler wound up needing surgery to repair blocked arteries caused by the radiation treatment from the Hodgkin’s disease earlier in his life. He missed four to five months of work at the time and had a second complication in 2012 that sidelined him for several more weeks.
“If not for the fabulous staff at [the University of Maryland Medical Center] and my wife, son, daughter and my friends and extended family, I couldn’t have made it,” Sandler wrote in a 2016 column for Jmore. “Each accomplishment in the process, though, was met with another setback. I missed many days at my job at the radio station, and it was a big strain in many ways for my family.
“But my support network was strong, dedicated and caring. I learned that it’s impossible to ‘go it alone’ in life, and surrounding yourself with the right people is paramount to success and getting over all obstacles and hurdles.”
Sandler, who was an outspoken supporter and advocate for the UMMC and The Associated: Jewish Federation of Baltimore, said he was living proof of how a positive outlook could help defeat adversity.
He also volunteered for the Johns Hopkins Children’s Hospital and served as a disc jockey at Kids Helping Hopkins dances in various area schools to raise money for the hospital.
“Having a good attitude and a sense of humor go a long way on the road to recovery,” he wrote. “What I’ve learned from this experience is to never give up, no matter how bad or daunting the odds are.”
Sandler is survived by his wife; his daughter, Alix Sandler, and son, Brooks Sandler; his brother, Doug Sandler; his stepsister, Nancy Surosky, and stepbrother, Richard Finstein; his brothers- and sisters-in-law; and by many nieces and nephews.
Services will be held at Sol Levinson & Bros., 8900 Reisterstown Road, at Mount Wilson Lane on Sunday, March 17, at 3 p.m. Interment is private.
Contributions in his memory may be sent to American Heart Association, Memorial and Tributes Processing Center, 4217 Park Place Court, Glen Allen, Va. 23060-9979, or Kids Helping Hopkins-Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, Office of Development, 750 E. Pratt Street, Suite 1700, Baltimore, Md. 21202.
In mourning at 15 Rolling Acres Way in Reisterstown following services on Sunday, then Monday and Tuesday 1-4 p.m. and 7-9 p.m.