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Longtime Lakeland News director Matt Matalamaki dies

Matt Matalamaki, right, the former technical director for Lakeland News, died Sunday at age 48.

BEMIDJI – A longtime behind-the-scenes employee for Lakeland News has died.

Matt Matalamaki, who served as the technical director for the news since it was founded, died Sunday evening at the age of 48, according to Lakeland Public Television. A cause of death was not immediately available, though it appears to be health-related.

“It’s really hard on everybody here,” said Dennis Weimann, the news director. “He was a big part of this station for many, many years and very well-liked. He was extremely important to our newscast.”

Matalamaki, who joined the station in 1986, left his job last fall due to health issues, said Bill Sanford, CEO of Lakeland Public Television.

“We’ve missed him a lot since he left and now that he’s really left, we’re really saddened,” Sanford said. “He’s been part of the Lakeland family for so many years. It was tough to see him go.”

Matalamaki worked his way up from a volunteer to a master-control operator, Sanford said. When Lakeland founded its Lakeland News program more than 13 years ago, Matalamaki was named its technical director.

Being in a smaller market, Matalamaki basically did the work of two employees, both as the director of the program and also reading scripts and developing the graphics.

“He’s the one who made us look good every night,” Weimann said.

Sanford said Matalamaki collected a range of “Star Trek” memorabilia and had a great sense of humor.

“A very quick wit,” Sanford said. “He was always good for a laugh.”

Survivors include his wife, Melissa, and two children, Kaija and Drake.

Services are pending with Cease Family Funeral Home of Bemidji.