Charlie VanderMeer, beloved Christian radio personality known as “Uncle Charlie” to young listeners around the world, has died at 84.
VanderMeer, who hosted the “Children’s Bible Hour” radio ministry for decades, died Friday afternoon, Feb. 22, at his West Michigan home, surrounded by family and friends, according to Keys for Kids Ministries.
“It is with deep sadness, but great hopefulness, that Keys for Kids Ministries (formerly Children’s Bible Hour) announces the passing of Charlie VanderMeer (a.k.a. Uncle Charlie). He passed away quietly at his home on Friday, February 22, 2019, following a recent fall,” reads the statement.
“‘It’s not what you know, it’s who you know,’ were the final words Charlie uttered to Keys for Kids President Greg Yoder, who spent time with him just before he was promoted to Glory,” it continues. “Though it was hard for Charlie to breathe, in his final moments he wanted everyone to know the 'who' he was talking about was Jesus Christ. He said, ‘I trust Him today just like I did when I was six years old. Knowing Jesus as your personal Savior is the most important thing.’”
VanderMeer was a pillar of Children’s Bible Hour radio ministry — now known as Keys for Kids — since he was 9 years old, when the host picked him out of a studio audience to participate in a live broadcast in 1943, according to his Keys for Kids Ministries biography page.
After finishing college, he joined the organization full-time. As the host of “The Children’s Bible Hour,” he would add voices to a script, read poems, lessons, and Scripture to listeners worldwide. He would also visit churches across the world, ministering through magic tricks, ventriloquism, balloon animals, and stories.
In March 1999, VanderMeer stepped down as Executive Director of the program but continued as the voice for the daily Keys for Kids 4 ½ minute six-day-a-week program, and the daily/weekly program called Storytime, as well as re-runs of the classic Children’s Bible Hour broadcasts until the beginning of 2016, airing on more than 200 outlets.
In 2017, VanderMeer received the Impact Award from the National Religious Broadcasters.
In a 2006 Grand Rapids Press story, VanderMeer said the focus of his messages were always the same: To point young listeners to Jesus Christ.
“I hope (listeners) get the message that Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven,” he said, according to MLive. “And also (that they) learn principles from the word of God in a fun and interesting way.”
Yoder told Michigan news channel WOODTV that he was one of many children who grew up listening to “Uncle Charlie.”
"I looked to him for guidance in some ways," Yoder said. "Everybody did. He was good at what he did."
Yoder hopes now Keys For Kids Ministries can carry on VanderMeer’s legacy.
“I feel like I'm a pebble, kind of a pebble in his shoe," Yoder said. "‘Cause he had such big shoes to fill. But to know I had his endorsement, in mutual respect, that just meant the world to me and to, I think, this organization."
“We praise the Lord for the decades of ministry he had on BBN encouraging children through Children’s Bible Hour and Storytime,” the Bible Broadcasting Network stated on Facebook Friday.