(Updated 8/29) A somewhat-hidden yet critical and popular icon within the snowmobile industry has died after a decades-long battle with cancer.
Gordon “Gordy” Radtke, 62, served for 32 years within the Bombardier/BRP service department, with a special focus on his favorite Ski-Doo snowmobiles. In that role, he became a popular figure among Ski-Doo dealers and the snowmobile media, as he was often tasked with teaching others about new technologies and how they could be serviced.
Whether describing a cutting-edge entire injection system or new rear suspension or the fact that an important bolt in a snowmobile changed its length or thread pattern (and that’s a real example), Radtke explained with unmatched enthusiasm how changes made in any given year’s snowmobile lineup made the machines better, addressed previous problems or made them easier to service.
Within that role, he actually first rose to prominence as a sidekick to the late Phil Mickelson in a series of service videos the two and others created for dealers. The videos would often begin with the professorial Mickelson – who, after his retirement would serve as the Snow Goer magazine Tech Professor – playing the straight man, explaining a topic that was going to be discussed. Then he would say, “Gordy, bring that snowmobile in here,” and a snowmobile would drop from the ceiling or otherwise land/fly/roll into the scene with Radtke aboard. After Mickelson retired in 1990, Radtke took more of the lead role for Ski-Doo.
Backing up, Radtke joined Bombardier/BRP in 1978 a couple of years after graduating from the University of Minnesota-Duluth in his hometown. Then, Bombardier maintained an office in Duluth, a vestige of its relationship with the Halvorson company that served as its distributor for many years. Later Bombardier relocated its U.S. headquarters to Wausau, Wisconsin, and Radtke moved to that area. His title was Product Specialist through much of his career.
For dealers, service technicians or media types, Radtke was a go-to guy to answer technical questions, report problems or figure out solutions. He always did it with a positive, friendly and helpful attitude. At snowmobile events – from dealer shows to events like Haydays – he was often one of the most popular figures, as people seemed drawn to him. He was always quick to compliment others and offer encouraging words.
That positive attitude existed despite a long, hard battle that Radtke fought with cancer throughout much of his adult life. For 28 years, he dealt with many, many health issues bravely. Sometimes he would look so thin or weak that it was obvious he was going through a rough period, but it seems he refused to complain or outwardly change his approach. “Things are great,” it what you were most likely to hear from Gordy.
In 2011, Radtke was inducted into the International Snowmobile Hall of Fame, but was unable to attend the ceremony due to illness – he was represented there by his family. But despite so many times people thinking it could be the end, Radtke and his body would fight back and he would charge forward. His strength and positive outlook are his legacy in addition to the kindness and absolutely fun-loving, live-life-to-the-max attitude.
Radtke’s Facebook page illustrates well his loves in life. It includes many snowmobile, ATV, PWC, UTV and pontooning pictures – all of course featuring BRP products – and it also includes many, many pictures of Radtke’s family and friends. He obviously loved them, and they loved him.
Below is the text from his Hall of Fame induction from 2011:
Almost 30 years ago, Gordy was hired by Bombardier (now BRP) / Ski-Doo in their Service Department. It helped that he was a snowmobiler and very passionate about the sport. The Company quickly realized his talents, technological knowledge and communication skills. Gordy has been instrumental in the education and dissemination of Ski-Doo technology and service information to dealers, technicians and the media. His knowledge of the product and his ability to educate and inform are of the highest level. Gordy is the go-to person when a service problem or question arises and he is willing to help all snowmobilers who call on his wealth of knowledge about their sleds.
Obituary and Funeral Arrangements
Here is the obituary and funeral arrangement that are posted on Legacy.com.
Radtke, Gordon “Mr. Ski Doo”
Gordon “Mr. Ski Doo” Radtke, Jr., of Wausau, Wisconsin, passed away on Friday, August 25, 2017.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Annette and Gordon, and nephew, Nicholas Martin.
Published in the Wausau Daily Herald from Aug. 29 to Aug. 30, 2017