by Jane Palmer
April 17, 2011
World Radio founder dies at 100
An early interest in amateur radio operating led to a rewarding electronics career for Leo I. Meyerson.
The Omaha native founded World Radio Laboratories in Council Bluffs in 1935 and it became one of the world’s largest distributors of amateur radio equipment. Meyerson also established the World Radio electronics stores, a retail chain that operated in the Midlands from the 1950s to the 1980s.
Meyerson, known internationally by the radio call sign WØGFQ, died of complications from a stroke on Wednesday at Eisenhower Medical Center in Rancho Mirage, Calif. He had celebrated his 100th birthday on March 7.
Services will begin at 2 p.m. Sunday at Temple Israel, 7023 Cass St.
“He was just a gem of a guy and had many friends,” said Dick Newsome, secretary-treasurer of the Omaha chapter of the Quarter Century Wireless Association. Members have been licensed radio operators for at least 25 years, and Newsome had known Meyerson since 1960.
He talked about their shared “marvelous hobby — we were the first ‘social network,’ a fraternity of people interested in radio” — and how Meyerson helped start so many in the field.
“So much of the amateur radio equipment was manufactured by the big-name companies and it was very expensive,” Newsome said. “Leo was very competitively priced. Not only that: He would put you on a budget plan and you made payments by the month. That’s how so many amateur operators got on the air with affordable equipment.”
Meyerson retired in 1977 and divided his time between the Omaha-Council Bluffs area and Palm Springs, Calif.
Troy Meyerson of Omaha, a grandson, said his grandfather built a one-tube receiver as a boy to hear the 1921 national radio broadcast of a Jack Dempsey fight on KDKA.
After graduating from Abraham Lincoln High School in the Bluffs and the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, Meyerson borrowed $1,000 from his father to start Wholesale Radio Laboratories in the 1930s. The company later became World Radio Laboratories.
At the outset of World War II the government asked Meyerson to rapidly increase production of radio crystals, and his efforts won him the Army-Navy E Award for excellence for war materials, his grandson said.
“You’d go over to Grandpa Leo’s house, and he was getting off the radio from talking to someone in South America or in Australia,” the grandson said. “Back then it was a big deal. He was doing this when you couldn’t speak to people across the world easily, if at all. He was also very active in the public service aspect of amateur radio. He really left his mark on his hobby.”
In times of disaster, when telephone communication was not available, Meyerson and other amateur radio operators volunteered to relay messages.
Meyerson was a national director for the Quarter Century Wireless Association from 1977 to 1987 and he was inducted into the organization’s Hall of Fame in 1994. He was elected a fellow of the Radio Club of America in 1980 and he was a life member of the International Mission Radio Association, Wireless Pioneers and American Radio Relay League.
“He was a people person,” his grandson said. “You never heard a cross word out of his mouth. Everybody was a future friend to him.”
Meyerson also was an accomplished pianist and organist and considered a career in music as a college student. When he was a teen he provided musical accompaniment for silent movies at a theater in Council Bluffs.
“He loved to play the piano for his wife and for dinner parties,” his grandson said. “She would sing and my grandpa would play. He could play anything by ear.”
Meyerson’s wife, Helen, and grandson Bruce Fellman preceded him in death. Survivors include daughter Darlynn Fellman and son Larry Meyerson, both of Omaha; six grandchildren; and 16 great-grandchildren.