Gary Joseph Gemski

Longtime Wmar Technician Worked At Memorial Stadium And Camden Yards As 'Backbone' Of Sports Production Team

December 28, 2009|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

Gary Joseph Gemski, a WMAR technician who worked at the final game at Memorial Stadium and the first one at Camden Yards, died of cancer Dec. 20 at Gilchrist Hospice Care in Towson. The Ellicott City resident was 53.

Born in Derby, Conn., he earned a degree in radio, television and film from the University of Maryland, College Park in 1978. There he met his future wife, Barbara Dougherty.

"We both lived on the seventh floor of the Hagerstown dorm," she said.

He joined the television station as a summer relief employee in spring 1979 and was later hired. He became a camera operator for Orioles baseball games at Memorial Stadium and later at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Colleagues said he was part of the remote crew that set up equipment and recorded lacrosse and football games at area colleges and high schools. He also was a studio camera operator.

Mr. Gemski was part of the WMAR team that broadcast the annual Turkey Bowl between Loyola and Calvert Hall high schools each Thanksgiving. This year's game at M&T Bank Stadium was dedicated to him.

As the master control operator, Mr. Gemski was in charge of a large switching console that controls programming at WMAR, including airing programs and commercials.

"That job is a huge responsibility," said George M. Ward, a retired WMAR videographer. "Master control is the focal point of everything that goes out over the air for every second of every day. Because of the importance of commercials to the station's revenue, they need to air cleanly, and Gary made sure they did."

Mr. Gemski handled the responsibility with aplomb, Mr. Ward said.

"Gary was calm and in control. He didn't let the job ruffle him. He always had a good word and a smile for everyone he worked with," Mr. Ward said.

In 2008, Mr. Gemski received the television station's Harry Kakel Lifetime Achievement Award, given to outstanding employees. He was only the second recipient after its namesake.

"Gary was the backbone of our sports production team. He was out in center field at Memorial Stadium, on the scaffolding, getting the shots of the pitcher to the batter," said Mr. Kakel, WMAR's production operations manager. "It was a lonely position but an important position."

Mr. Kakel, a 44-year WMAR employee, also noted Mr. Gemski's poise at master control.

"When Gary was at the switch, for all the important things, like the Super Bowl, when the commercials had to be on, he was so reliable, so calm. It's not the same without him. He was just a great, great guy to work with."

Mr. Gemski was an avid music fan and a longtime member of the Baltimore Blues Society. He and his wife often attended concerts, and his tastes ranged from bands popular during his college days to contemporary groups.

He and his wife entertained and filled their home with co-workers and friends dating to their college days for annual Christmas and summer parties.

The couple also had season tickets to UM football games and were dedicated Terps fans.

A memorial service followed by a celebration of Mr. Gemski's life will be held at 11 a.m. Jan. 2 at St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church, Wilde Lake Interfaith Center, 10431 Twin Rivers Road, Columbia.

Survivors, in addition to his wife, include daughters Amanda and Shonda of Ellicott City; his mother, Eleanor Gemski of Derby, Conn.; two brothers, David Gemski of Seymour, Conn., and Jim Gemski of Lakewood, Colo.; and his sister, Debra Gemski of Newington, Conn.

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