George A. Kroen II

[ Age 78 ] Television cameraman and engineer started his career in the early days of WMAR-TV.

October 26, 2006|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN REPORTER

George A. Kroen II, a retired television cameraman and engineer whose career dated to the pioneering days of WMAR-TV, died of complications from a stroke Sunday at Sinai Hospital. The longtime Randallstown resident was 78.

Mr. Kroen was born in Baltimore and raised in Highlandtown and on his family's farm in Westminster. He was a 1946 graduate of Mount St. Joseph High School in Irvington. He also studied broadcast engineering at the Commercial Radio Institute.

In 1947, he began his broadcasting career as a staff announcer for radio station WLEE-AM in Richmond, Va., and later moved to WGAY-AM in Silver Spring.

"Not only did he do farm reports, he was also a [disc jockey]. He was proud that he and his colleagues perfected a technique to synchronize the playing of two records at once. I think they had too much time on their hands," said a daughter, Margaret Ann Kroen of Baltimore.

In 1948, he joined WMAR-TV in Baltimore, which went on the air in 1947. Its studios were in the A.S. Abell Co.'s Sun Square Building at Baltimore and Charles streets.

Mr. Kroen started as a cameraman. He was later promoted to group leader and finally to master controller, overseeing technical television operations, a position he held at his 1999 retirement.

Outside of serving as an Army photo interpreter and cartographer from 1950 to 1952, where he attained the rank of sergeant, Mr. Kroen spent 51 years at WMAR-TV.

"He said that he had operated every position in the station's operating department. He did remotes from Memorial Stadium, televising Colts and Orioles games," Ms. Kroen said. "He televised President John F. Kennedy's funeral in Washington and captured John Jr. saluting his father's coffin."

During the 1990s, Mr. Kroen was still driving WMAR's remote van throughout the state to televise sports and news events. In addition to his work at the station, now located on York Road in Rodgers Forge, he taught TV production classes at Goucher College during the 1980s.

"He was a group leader for much of the time I was at Channel 2. He was a quiet man who loved the work. He was a very capable engineer and dedicated," said Larry Taylor, a retired WMAR engineer.

"George was a part of the generation who came out of World War II and went into TV when it was in its infancy. I think he held the record for longevity at the station," said George Ward, a retired WMAR news photographer.

"He was a really large, powerful-looking guy who was somewhat intimidating, but you quickly found out he was a soft and gentle soul who was willing to share his knowledge and experiences with the younger folks who were coming in," Mr. Ward said.

"One thing George had was a lot of compassion for people. He always treated his crew members nicely. He was a good man," said Larry Paradis, who retired as WMAR engineering department maintenance supervisor.

"When I got to Channel 2 in 1995 to get Rodricks for Breakfast going, I found George Kroen curmudgeonly and even a little jaded about TV. But inside, he was a big kid, excited about being involved in a live television program again," Sun columnist Dan Rodricks said yesterday.

"I think the show reminded him of the first days of TV in Baltimore, when there was little programming from the networks and certainly nothing syndicated, and the local affiliates had to fill the hours with their own programming," Mr. Rodricks said. "He was the crew chief, a mentor to a lot of the young TV techs who were also turned on by their involvement in live local television."

Mr. Kroen was an active member and former business manager of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1400 and was a member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers.

He was an avid stamp collector and HO-gauge model railroad fan. He liked setting up an annual Christmas garden and enjoyed gardening.

"He tried to get as much yield out of his garden plot behind his home and was one of the few local growers of fava beans," his daughter said.

Mr. Kroen was a 50-year communicant of St. Charles Borromeo Roman Catholic Church in Pikesville, where he was a sacristan and altar server. He continued working at the church until this past summer, when he was diagnosed with melanoma.

He also volunteered at Our Daily Bread.

"He rarely turned down a request for help. Growing up in the Depression, he said, had taught him compassion and made him realize he had to help others, even at the expense of himself," Ms. Kroen said.

Mr. Kroen was known for his dry wit and puns.

"His humor was relentless, even to the day before he died," Ms. Kroen said.

A Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 2 p.m. tomorrow at his church, 101 Church Lane, Pikesville.

Also surviving are his wife of 54 years, the former Rose Pitinga; two other daughters, Rosanne Kroen of South Bend, Ind., and Georganne Lippert of Baltimore; two brothers, Charles Kroen of Petal, Miss., and Thomas Kroen of Baltimore; and three grandchildren.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

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