Sunday, August 24, 2008

Lifelong radio buff Tom Kneitel dead at 75

It is my sad duty to announce that my old friend Tomcat has passed away down in Florida on Friday. Here is an obit courtesy of the Orlando newspaper, Jack NeSMith and family. Thanks Jack.

From the Orlando Sentinel newspaper:

Tom Kneitel, who loved radios from the time he was a kid, turned his hobby into a career, writing magazine articles and books for other radio buffs. Known by his CB handle "Tomcat," Kneitel was a storied figure in the world of CBs, shortwaves and scanners.

His 1992 book Tune in on Telephone Calls - which told readers how to use inexpensive equipment to join the "popular pastime" of listening in on other people's cell-phone calls - earned him interviews by The New York Times and The Boston Globe.

Kneitel, 75, died Friday. The DeLand man had been ill for more than a year, with a variety of health problems, said Judy Kneitel, his wife of 54 years.

He began writing about radios in the 1950s. "My goodness, I'm having fun and they're paying me," he told his wife.

His last job had been as editor of Popular Communications magazine, but he had also written for CB Horizons magazine, S9 magazine, Popular Electronics and TV Guide. He also wrote a number of other books.

Born in New York City, Kneitel spent part of his childhood in Florida. He was the grandson of Max Fleischer, the cartoonist who had a Miami animation studio that created Betty Boop and Popeye cartoons.

His family moved back to New York when he was a teenager, and Kneitel spent most of his life there. In 2004, the Kneitels retired to DeLand.

He was a funny man but also a workaholic who would "be at the typewriter 18 hours a day," Judy Kneitel said. "He never missed a deadline. He enjoyed writing."

Even as he was entering a hospice last year, "he turned out three more articles," she said.

Most of his columns contained humor, plays on words and strong opinions. A Pennsylvania newsletter for radio buffs last year reprinted this retort by Kneitel, who'd been taken to task for his criticism of an old organization: "I don't care when it was founded, I just want to know when it will be losted."

Kneitel got his first radio from relatives after he contracted polio when he was 14 - and was hooked.

Though he recovered from the disease, he always walked with a limp, his wife said, and about 15 years ago "post-polio syndrome" landed him in a wheelchair. He'd been suffering from heart disease and diabetes, among other problems, too.

In addition to his wife, Kneitel is survived by seven of his eight children and by 10 grandchildren. The family plans a private memorial service.