Kermit Kalman Cohen, a cameraman and sound engineer for more than 20 years at WJZ-TV and the person famed Muppet Kermit the Frog was named after, died of cancer Wednesday at his home in Parkville. He was 71.
Born and reared in Baltimore, Mr. Cohen attended Polytechnic Institute. He served in the Army Air Corps during World War II as a bombardier, flying B-29s in the South Pacific.
After studying radio and television in Chicago, he started his career as a sound engineer at WBAL-TV in the 1950s. He went to work for WJZ in the late 1960s and retired from there in 1988.
"He was a terrific guy, very good at his craft, K. C. was," said Richard Sher, a reporter and news anchorman at the station.
Lenny Levin, a colleague of Mr. Cohen at WBAL, recounted how Mr. Cohen met Muppets creator Jim Henson. He said the late puppeteer had been the host of a show, "Sam and Friends," at WRC-TV in Washington when he was invited to tour WBAL's studios. Both were NBC affiliates then, and WBAL carried the show, Mr. Levin said.
Mr. Henson was introduced to members of the sound and camera crew, including Mr. Cohen.
"When he heard his name, Jim turned around, snapped his fingers and said to his wife, 'That's what we call the frog -- Kermit.' "
Mr. Cohen regarded being the person for whom of the most widely known figures in American show business was named as an honor. He delighted in telling anyone who would listen how a little green frog on TV came to be named after him, said Mr. Cohen's sister, Bernice Burkett of Pikesville.
"Absolutely he was proud of it. He told everyone about it," she said. "His 'claim to fame,' he would call it."
His three grandchildren, and many nieces and nephews also took pride in telling their friends that Kermit the Frog was named after him, the sister said.
He is also survived by his wife, the former Linda Andrychuk; and a daughter, Arlene DiMenna of Baltimore. He previously was married to the former Leona Raskin, who also survives.
9- Services were held Thursday in Baltimore.