Benjamin Wolfe, 83, engineer, helped establish radio stations

September 22, 1997|By Robert Hilson Jr. | Robert Hilson Jr.,SUN STAFF

Benjamin Wolfe, a longtime broadcast engineer who helped establish two local radio stations and design the three-antenna tower at Television Hill, died of heart failure Wednesday at Sinai Hospital. He was 83 and lived in Mount Washington.

Erected in 1959, the tower, which resembles a candelabra and sits near Druid Hill Park, was the first of its kind, according to Arthur Honsell of Baltimore, a retired broadcast engineer and colleague of Mr. Wolfe's.

"Taking something like that from concept to reality is truly amazing. It took a lot of guts and foresight," said Mr. Honsell, who worked for several local television stations.

"He sleeps engineering, dreams it, walks it, talks it," said Chet Collier, a former station group president of the Westinghouse Broadcasting Co.

"He didn't just like what he did, he loved it," said a daughter, Marian Shuman of Baltimore. "He was always the one you came to when you wanted to know something about broadcast communications."

Mr. Wolfe began his career in the early 1930s as a wireless operator on merchant ships. He graduated from Capitol Radio Engineering Institute in Washington in 1935.

He joined the engineering department of Baltimore's WCBM-AM in 1936 and was a civilian technical supervisor of a radar group for the War Department during World War II.

After the war, he joined the Federal Communications Commission as a radio engineer. From 1946 to 1947, he helped establish WANN-AM in Annapolis and then WSID-AM in Baltimore, where he was director of engineering until 1949 when he went to work for WJZ-TV in Baltimore.

From 1962 to 1964, he was director of engineering for a San Francisco television station, then senior vice president of engineering for the Westinghouse Broadcasting Co. in New York, with responsibilities for seven radio stations and five television stations.

In 1969, he was named vice president of engineering for the Capital Area Post Newsweek Stations, which operated radio stations on the East Coast. He retired in 1979 and was a consultant for the company until 1989.

Mr. Wolfe was named Engineer of the Year by the National Association of Broadcasters in 1971. In 1975, the Veteran Wireless Operators' Association gave him its Marconi Gold Medal of Achievement.

He was a member of the Federal Communications Consulting Engineers, Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, and Veteran Wireless Operators Association, of which he was a past president.

He was a past chairman of the Baltimore section of the Institute of Radio Engineers and past chairman of the National Association of Broadcasters' Engineering Conference Committee.

He was a fellow of the the Radio Club of America and the Society of Broadcast Engineers, which gave him its Lifetime Achievement Award in 1995.

He was a longtime member of the Beth El Congregation in Pikesville. Services were held Friday.

Other survivors include his wife, the former Phyllis Jaffe, whom he married in 1935; another daughter, Carol Wolfe of Baltimore; and two grandchildren.

Pub Date: 9/22/97

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