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Radio Pioneer Dies at 96.

Charles E. Dewey Jr. died March 16 at his Battle Creek home.  He was 96.  “Charlie” Dewey built WBCK and WKMI in the late 1940’s.  

He built 1360 WKMI in Kalamazoo (then known as WGFG) in 1946-47 for Harold Gross, using whatever materials he could get his hands on.  At the tail end of WW2, it was a challenge to get any materials. Charlie once recalled that Gross wanted to save money on antenna coax cable, so he bought some that had once been rolled out on the battlefield by the military, and then re-wound onto its spools.   Well, any broadcast engineer can tell you how crazy that was!   The cable was twisted and broken and had to be silver-soldered every few feet, in the tower field where the WKMI still is today.  A year later, David and Robert Holmes, Battle Creek car dealers, hired Charlie to build AM 930 WBCK.   He built the current studios and towers on Golden Avenue, and the studios in the Security National Bank, downtown.   He also built a special remote broadcast vehicle, which was first used to broadcast hydroplane races at Gull Lake.

WBCK Remote Van 1948
The WBCK Remote Broadcast Van, built by Charlie Dewey

Charlie Dewey was born in Jefferson City, Missouri.  Unable to serve in the military during World War II, he went to work for Raytheon as a civilian radio officer and served in that capacity for PT boat squadrons in North Africa, Italy, and Corsica during the war. After the war he relocated to Michigan and worked as a broadcasting engineer.

He was an avid DXer and Amateur Radio operator, and helped build the “Battle Creek Special” antenna, popular with DXpeditioners.   In 2012 the Quarter Century Wireless Association Michigan Chapter 10 recognized Dewey for having been licensed continuously for 80 years.

Charlie also worked for Civil Defense, later known as FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency.  He spent many years working with the government to use broadcasting to make communities safe and better informed, and lived at the home he built in Battle Creek on Linwood Drive for nearly 50 years.  He retired from the government in the early 1980’s.  He was preceded in death by his first wife, Mae, and second wife, Martha.   Charlie is survived by his sons, Charles E. Dewey the 3rd (“Skip”) and John Dewey.   A memorial service will be held April 1st at the Miller Chapel at First Congregational Church in Battle Creek.  The time will be announced later by the Shaw Funeral Home.

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