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Published: Wednesday, 8/20/2003

Radio man guided planes in WW II

PORT CLINTON - Shelby H. Bristow, a lifelong radio man, died Sunday in the Firelands Regional Medical Center, Sandusky. He was 86.

Mr. Bristow died of respiratory failure, his wife, Opal, said.

Born in Lynn, Ark., Mr. Bristow grew up on his parents' farm. Though he never completed high school and lost both his parents when he was 18, in the late 1930s he left Arkansas for Chicago to attend radio school. Soon afterward, World War II broke out.

In January, 1941, Mr. Bristow joined the Army Air Corps as a radio operator. He was stationed in China, guiding planes “over the hump” - the Himalayan mountains - between India and China, until his discharge in July, 1945.

Upon returning to America, Mr. Bristow continued guiding planes - this time working for Trans World Airlines as a ground-based radio operator. He started out in Washington, before transferring to Toledo after one year.

In June, 1949, he married Opal Schiller. “I never once saw him lose his temper. He always kept his cool,” his wife said. “And he could figure out how to fix just about anything.”

In the late 1950s, Trans World Airlines began updating their technology, largely eliminating their use of ground radio operators. Mr. Bristow had to switch employers, getting a job as a radio engineer with WFRO in Fremont.

He was a member of Faith United Methodist Church.

Surviving are his wife, Opal; son, Norman; daughter Sharon; brother, Von de Cordova; sisters, Ruth Johnson and Pauline Law, and three grandchildren.

Services will be at 11 a.m. today in the Neidecker-LeVeck & Crosser Funeral Home, Port Clinton. The family suggests tributes to Faith United Methodist Church or the Ohio Veterans Home.

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