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Published: Tuesday, 7/13/2010

Longtime broadcaster wrote about Fostoria history

BY JIM SIELICKI
BLADE STAFF WRITER

FOSTORIA - Melvin L. Murray, longtime broadcaster and Fostoria resident who chronicled the city's history and the history of its glass factories, died Saturday at Good Shepherd Home in Fostoria.

Mr. Murray, 86, who died of pneumonia, had been in ill health for about three years, said his daughter, Marjean Murray Cafaro.

He was born in Vincennes, Ind., on June 16, 1924, and entered the armed forces after high school. His first wife, Martha Mae, died of cancer in 1969. He married Jean Carnahan on July 10, 1970, and she survives.

Mr. Murray began his career in radio in 1949 after graduating from Ohio State University. He had entered college after World War II, where he served overseas as a historian for the Army Air Forces.

He applied for an announcer's job with WFOB-FM but instead was hired as general manager, recalled Gene Kinn, a former colleague.

"Mel didn't expect to stay in Fostoria long," Mr. Kinn said.

But he not only stayed for the rest of his life, he immersed himself in the city and its history and wrote two books about it, said his daughter.

"He was interested in so many things" she said. "He really liked to look into history.

Unable to find out much about the town he adopted, Mr. Murray decided to research its history himself, becoming the city's premier glass expert in the process.

"He said people would want to know what happened in this town, and that made him want to find out more," Mrs. Cafaro said.

With information about the city's glass history nearly nonexistent, he would gather up the family on weekends and dig through the former sites of the city's 13 glass factories.

In 1992, armed with his knowledge and a vast collection of glass objects, he renovated a storefront into a glass gallery that contained 1,300 pieces of glass from former Fostoria glass works.

Some pieces were loaned by other collectors, but he was the gallery's largest contributor, his daughter said.

"My sister and I would go out with him on Saturdays and Sundays to these places where the glass factories were and we'd find these little pieces of glass," she said.

In the early days of his radio operation, Mr. Murray would hustle ads in area communities and broadcast high school games in places such as Weston, Arcadia, Grand Rapids, Carey, and Sycamore, according to stories about the station in The Blade.

Mr. Kinn was hired by Murray shortly after Mr. Murray began working there.

Mr. Kinn was still in school at the time.

"I always wanted to be a radio announcer … and after school, he would allow me to announce some of the records and the time and temperatures," Mr. Kinn said.

FM radio was in its infancy at the time Mr. Murray joined the station. WFOB acquired a license for an AM station, which at the time was the big money maker in broadcasting, Mr. Kinn said.

When Mr. Murray began at WFOB, the station had only three employees who worked from studios in a bank basement.

For 36 years, Murray worked as an announcer, talk show host, and later became the station's president and principal owner. With his friend Roger Wise, along with Mr. Kinn, he founded the area's first cable TV operation, Wood Television Corp., in Bowling Green in the mid-1960s.

The AM radio station expanded with a studio in Bowling Green, broadcasting college and high school sports. Mr. Murray teamed up with Mr. Wise at night to broadcast high school sports in the 1950s and '60s.

Mr. Murray's colorful way of describing action on the court drew smiles to his listeners, Mr. Kinn said, such as describing a particularly slow player by "Here he comes down the court like a lizard walking down Main Street."

Mr. Murray retired from broadcasting in 1987. He sold the station and its cable operation to Mr. Kinn, who sold it in 1991.

In 1980 Gov. James Rhodes appointed Mr. Murray to a nine-year term as a trustee for Bowling Green State University. Mr. Murray was a member of the Fostoria library board for 50 years, and he was a past president of the Ohio Library Trustees Association. The research wing of the Kaubisch Memorial Public Library in Fostoria was named in his honor.

He was president of the Fostoria Glass Association and was a founder of the Fostoria Glass Heritage Gallery, where he was curator emeritus and a lecturer.

Mr. Murray is survived by his wife, Jean Murray, daughters, Marilyn Davis and Marjean Murray Cafaro, sister, Thelma Lee Morrison, and three grandchildren.

Visitation at Mann-Hare-Hoening Funeral Home & Crematory in Fostoria will be 2 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. today and an hour before the funeral at 10:30 a.m. tomorrow.

The family suggests memorials to the Fostoria library.

Contact: Jim Sielicki at:

jsielicki@theblade.com

or 419-724-6050



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