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Thursday February 14, 2013

Ronald Lynn Rochester

TV producer, Boy Scouts Canada executive, radio enthusiast, family man. Born Aug. 31, 1941, in Battle Creek, Mich., died Dec. 10, 2012, in Kingston, Ont., of organ failure, aged 71

Ron Rochester does not appear in any history books, but he really was a broadcasting pioneer. He created a radio station when he was still in primary school, and would spend spare time in his Grade 6 classroom making up weekend program schedules.

He got the schedules by hanging around the local radio station in his hometown of London, Ont. He also managed to acquire leftover news copy, along with old transcription discs, which, back in the 1950s, was the usual means of playing commercials on the radio.

Ron's station was in the family basement. The control room and announcing booth was really just an assembly of big wooden storm windows. Ron took it very seriously, though he did assume an alias. He was Chuck Logan, and the station was dubbed CHUX ("chucks") where, as Ron would say, "your chuckles originate."

Sound a little silly? Well, Ron figured, correctly, that it was a lot more creative and career-forming than what his fellow classmates spent hours doing - talking on the phone with girlfriends or watching TV.

And the broadcasting equipment? Ron devised microphones from walkie-talkies, and wired them to a record player. Eventually, with the help of a Popular Mechanics magazine, he built a transmitter that was mounted on the garage roof.

Radio station CHUX had a range of about a block, and specialized in important community news such as garage sales and babysitting services. Neighbours really did tune in.

Now, this was not only an after-school amusement. Ron spent most of the week planning for his all-night shows Friday and Saturday. The audience was asleep, but Ron was in his glory.

After university graduation, Ron went to the other end of the world, and ended up as a producer at a television station in Sydney. Years later, back in Canada, at the age of 40 he married Margaret. She was his first sweetheart. They had two children, Katie and Mike, and Ron promptly shifted his career to Scouts Canada, where he became an executive in Winnipeg.

Soon, he found himself back in radio, working at an amateur station. Finally, in retirement he came full circle, back to Ontario to a community radio station that depended on volunteers. Ron was as dependable as the national time signal.

He poured his energy into CJAI, the Amherst Island station run by a band of islanders who, if Ron had his way, would have renamed their happy, friendly neighbourly radio station CHUX. Where your chuckles originate!

Joe Coté is Ron's friend and fellow school-days broadcaster.

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