Darrell Strader, 78, WMAR studio employee

October 08, 2003|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Darrell Strader, who worked in studio operations at WMAR-TV for 34 years and enjoyed restoring rowhouses and Rover automobiles, died Monday of respiratory failure. The Waverly resident was 78.

Mr. Strader was born and raised in Clarksburg, W.Va. During World War II, he served in Army intelligence and was assigned to the French army. After the war, he earned a bachelor's degree from the Maryland Institute College of Art.

Mr. Strader was working as a freelance artist when he was hired by WMAR-TV in 1956. At times, he worked as a stage manager, cameraman, teleprompter operator and lighting designer.

"He used to say he was the `world's oldest prop boy.' However, he was a very self-effacing, conscientious and talented individual. He did everything that had to be done in order to put a show on the air," said Gail A. Bending, a former WMAR-TV executive producer who is now WJZ-TV's news director.

Ms. Bending became acquainted with Mr. Strader at WMAR in 1979. "He took pity on me when I was an intern and actually talked to me," she said. "We formed a friendship that lasted all through the years."

Mr. Strader worked on such local shows as Stu Kerr's Bozo, Caboose and Professor Kool. He also did the Collegians and served as stage manager for Orioles broadcasts. Former co-workers say that he brought an artist's sensitivity to his work.

"He was probably the best lighting technician I've ever seen," said Paul F. Pilka, a director who has worked at WMAR-TV for 33 years. "He could do lots with little. He could do more with three lights than others could do with 10. He had a good eye for design."

A man of varied talents, Mr. Strader could rebuild an automobile motor or gild a mirror with equal dexterity. He was an avid listener of bluegrass, Dixieland and classical music. He restored a Victorian-era rowhouse in the 2100 block of St. Paul St., and was working on another at his death.

He also owned two Rover automobiles from the 1960s, which he had restored and liked to drive occasionally. "Both Rovers were a great source of pride to him," Ms. Bending said.

Mr. Strader was an Anglophile. When he couldn't sleep at night, he'd listen to British Broadcasting Corp. radio broadcasts or go online and read English newspapers.

His marriage to the former Ethel L. Olert ended in divorce.

Funeral services will be held at 10 a.m. tomorrow at the Ruck Towson Funeral Home, 1050 York Road.

Mr. Strader is survived by a brother, Richard Strader of Charlestown, W.Va.; a sister, Eleanor Webb of Westminster; and many nieces and nephews.

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