One of New Zealand's longest-serving and beloved broadcasters has died suddenly - sparking an outpouring of grief from colleagues and listeners.
Newstalk ZB's Bruce Russell, in his early 70s, was working right up until his death - as an overnight host, newsreader and host of the popular In My Day show on Saturday night.
He passed away last night at Newstalk ZB in central Auckland, shortly before he was due on air to host the station's overnight show.
In a statement on Newstalk ZB's website, the station said: "Bruce Russell, one of our long-time Newstalk ZB hosts, passed away unexpectedly but peacefully last night.
"Bruce was a wonderful team member and a talented host and newsreader who brought joy to our audiences for many years.
"The conversations he had on-air brought him loyalty from listeners young and old both throughout the night and on his Saturday night show.
"His inimitable personality in the newsroom and in the studio would always entertain his colleagues too.
"Our thoughts and love are with Bruce's family at this sad time."
One of Russell's long-time colleagues at ZB, Tim Dower, announced the news on air this morning of the passing of his "great mate".
"Bruce was a magnificent team member, very talented host and newsreader who brought joy to ZB audiences for many many years... I know this news will be very upsetting for many of our listeners, especially those who have been loyal to Bruce over so many years and there are so many of you," Dower said.
"He brought a particularly sharp sense of humour to his work and to his workplace. He always wanted to give it the very best he could, he was an absolute professional. He loved his work, just loved it," he said.
Russell had a particular ability to connect with people and that was evidenced just last week on his early Friday morning show, Dower said.
"There were one or two callers who were a little distressed during the course of that show, that was one aspect of the way [Bruce] hosted that people were able to talk to him like that [and] know that his sympathy and his empathy were genuine. You'll really will be missed Bruce - such a big part of our family here," he said.
Newstalk ZB broke from its usual programming at 9am today to open its lines for listeners to pay tribute to Russell.
Host Tim Beveridge said Russell was the fabric of the station - and estimated he'd have had more than 100,000 on-air conversations in his career.
Russell worked up and down New Zealand during his broadcasting career. He started out writing commercials and during that time he began doing some announcing and was posted to various community stations, "doing every shift under the sun", according to his ZB bio.
In Timaru, he switched into the programming side and later did a management stint at a small station in the central North Island.
Last year, a former colleague called Russell's ZB show and reminisced about his portrayal of a young character he played - Freddy - on Radio Caroline in Timaru.
"A lot of people had a character... Peter Mac was the breakfast host and I was the character, a little boy called Freddy. I would drop in with a crash and a bang in the morning. Freddy was a bit of a deprived child, his mum was on a social welfare benefit. He would spend two or three minutes talking to the listeners.... at a later radio station I continued the character. When it was his birthday the radio station was besieged by kids lining up for miles screaming for Freddy," chuckled Russell.
"The kids didn't see Freddy, only his hand waving out of the jalopy. They were lovely days."
Listeners have started sending in their tributes to Bruce.
"He replied to me when I told him I had got out of bed and sank to my knees and prayed about the animal situation in Afghanistan," says Julie Wilson. "He knew me as the Hedgehog lady and it was moving to receive his reply. As a busy man, he was unbelievably genuine. What empty nights so many of us will have while we adjust to another announcer - such big boots to fill."
Faye and Trev wrote: "Bruce you left this world so suddenly, about to do what you enjoyed. You had a beautiful voice as a host and newsreader and a wonderful personality. Your recollection of so many New Zealand events and places in New Zealand was extraordinary with 'In my Day'. Awesome. RIP."
Annette Preen said: "I am so sad to hear of Bruce's death. I wondered why he wasn't on the radio last night. I listened every Saturday night, he was a wonderful host. My husband also passed away suddenly, several years ago, so my deepest sympathy to his family.
Bruce will be so sadly missed."
David Russell said: "My insomnia will never be cured with the passing of a true scholar and gentleman. [Bruce] could connect at some level with everyone and make us all smile in the wee hours."
Russell is survived by his wife Lorna and son Andrew.