Elmo Reed passed away this past Wednesday, December 31, 2014.
On December 31st 2014, the broadcast engineering community lost a pioneer, a mentor, a friend and all around great guy when Elmo W. Reed passed away.
Elmo is probably best known locally as the long-time Director of Engineering of the Post Corporation and WLUK TV 11. He will truly be missed by all in the broadcast engineering community. I could not begin to do justice to all of his experiences and contributions, but will try to mention a few. Elmo was born in 1917 near Mineral Point, WI and grew up on a farm near Eldora, IA and in Freeport, Illinois. He entered the RCA Institute in Chicago and graduated in 1936. He then took the exam for the FCC First Class Radio Telephone license – which at that time he spent 4 days completing and turned in 35 handwritten pages! (Of course he passed with flying colors!)
Soon after this he obtained a job as an engineer at WROK in Rockford, Illinois. He was working there when World War II broke out, so he joined the Army. While in the service he attended radar school and was a key player in developing and implementing what was then a cutting edge technology that helped the Allies win that conflict. After the war when he returned home, he and June were married and they moved to Green Bay. Elmo was now the Chief Engineer at WJPG AM 1440. Elmo did pioneering work in FM broadcasting at WJPG, but was ahead of his time and WJPG FM was turned off like many other early FM stations.
When the Post Corporation split from the Press Gazette and WJPG, Elmo stayed with Post Corporation and became chief engineer at WEAU TV in Eau Claire. A long career at Post Corporation followed, with Elmo taking on many different technical leadership roles and doing many significant and interesting projects. He retired from Post Corporation as the Director of Engineering in 1984.
My favorite story about Elmo took place in 1992, about 8 years after his retirement. I was working on my first major rebuild of a complicated AM directional antenna system and put the word out that I was interested in hiring a number of engineers to help me in their spare time. Elmo answered the call and I was delighted. I looked forward to learning from his superior experience on the subject. When it came time to do the “walk outs”, who was first in line but Elmo Reed! Now I need to explain to some of you – “walk outs” are a series of field measurements done by a two man crew carrying heavy test equipment and a measuring chain and walking for miles through all sorts of terrain and obstacles. This was strenuous work and something I was not looking forward to as a 35 year old broadcast engineer in reasonably good shape. So I was uncomfortable when Elmo volunteered – after all, he was in his 70s at the time! So I manipulated things so that I would be teamed with Elmo and quietly whispered to the consultant – “we won’t be out long – so don’t expect much from us”. Then off we went.
Well I was certainly taken to school that day – it was all I could do to KEEP UP with Elmo! I found myself winded and falling behind. Just when I thought I had seen it all, we came up to a 6 foot chain link fence protecting some property where the radial needed to be measured. I was starting to mark the field sheet as “not accessible” when Elmo yelled “What are you waiting for!” and clambered over the fence! I had no choice but to follow. An hour or so later, we were the first team back to the transmitter with a full field sheet. And then we went out again.
Elmo was a true inspiration to me and my career and to many others I am sure. He always made time to share and teach with those of us less experienced. I am truly grateful for having known him and receiving his mentoring and friendship.
Steve Brown, SBE Chapter 80, Fox Valley WI