CHICAGO – John “Jack” Goeken, founder of telecom giant MCI and the father of air-to-ground telephone communication, has died after a long battle with cancer. He was 80.
Goeken died Thursday at a hospital in his hometown of Joliet, Ill., according to Pat Schneider, a close friend and executive vice president of the Goeken Group Corp., a company he founded in Chicago’s suburbs after leaving MCI.
Goeken is widely viewed as the father of air-to-ground telephone communication. As a founder of MCI and Airfone Inc., he sought to make communication possible anywhere people go – an idea that at the time revolutionized the telecommunications industry.
He defied convention and was one of the founders of Microwave Communications Inc. in 1963, setting up a system of microwave towers to provide long-distance service between Chicago and St. Louis to compete with American Telephone & Telegraph Co.
The company went on to become MCI Communications Corp., the nation’s second-largest long-distance telephone provider after AT&T. He left MCI in 1974 and two years later founded Airfone Inc., the first air-to-ground telephone service.
Always restless, Goeken went on to several other ventures after Airfone, and founded Naperville, Ill.,-based Goeken Group Corp. in 1995.
Goeken was born on Aug. 22, 1930, in Joliet to the Rev. John Goeken, a Lutheran minister, and Signe Lydia Goeken. He started out fixing radios and television by trial and error as a senior high school student. He continued his education in the Army Signal Corps in the early 1950s but had no college training in electronics.
Goeken is survived by his wife of 59 years, Mona Lisa Goeken, two children, seven grandchildren, one great-grandchild and two sisters.
NEW YORK – Edwin Newman, who brought literacy, wit and energy to NBC newscasts for more than three decades, and battled linguistic pretense and clutter in his best-sellers “Strictly Speaking” and “A Civil Tongue,” has died. He was 91.
Newman died on Aug. 13 of pneumonia in Oxford, England. He had moved there with his wife in 2007 to live closer to their daughter, said his lawyer Rupert Mead. He said the family delayed announcing Newman’s death so they could spend some time privately grieving.
At NBC from 1952 until his retirement in 1984, Newman did political reporting, foreign reporting, anchoring of news specials, “Meet the Press,” “Today,” “Nightly News,” midday news and a variety of radio spots. He announced the death of President Kennedy on radio, and anchored on TV when President Reagan was shot.
Newman, with his rumpled, squinting delivery, impressed his audience not so much with how he looked as with the likelihood that what he’d say would be worth hearing. And his occasional witty turn of phrase might be accompanied by a mischievous smile. The New York Times wrote in 1966 that Newman “is one of broadcasting’s rarities. … NBC’s instant renaissance man speaks with the distinctive growl of a rusted muffler. He makes no concessions to the charm boy school of commentator.”
Newman was born in New York City in 1919, and got his first taste of reporting on his high school paper. A brother, M.W. Newman, became an award-winning reporter for the Chicago Daily News and the Chicago Sun-Times. He died in 2001.
Newman began his journalism career in the Washington bureau of the International News Service. He took dictation from reporters for 12 hours when Pearl Harbor was attacked on Dec. 7, 1941.
He and his wife, Rigel, had one daughter, Nancy.
“News is a great business,” Newman once wrote. “I count myself lucky to be in it.”
LOS ANGELES – Veteran character actor Harold Gould, who played Valerie Harper’s father on television’s “Rhoda” and the con man Kid Twist in the 1973 movie “The Sting,” has died. He was 86.
Gould’s daughter-in-law, Leah Gould, told the Los Angeles Times that he died Saturday of prostate cancer at the Motion Picture and Television Fund retirement community in Woodland Hills.
Gould had a prolific career both on the big and small screens. He appeared in such films as “Harper,” “Love and Death,” “Freaky Friday” and “Patch Adams.”
On television, he played Betty White’s boyfriend on “The Golden Girls” and also made guest appearances on “Soap,” “Perry Mason” and most recently “Nip/Tuck.”
He is survived by his wife of 60 years, Lea; his children, Deborah Gould Harris, Joshua Gould and Lowell Gould; and five grandchildren.
Dodge Morgan, 78, solo sailing pioneer
PORTLAND, Maine – Dodge Morgan, who became the first American to sail solo around the globe without stopping – and did it in record time – has died of complications from cancer. He was 78.
Morgan, who died Tuesday at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, turned his small marine radar company into the successful Whistler brand of detectors before sailing around the world.
He set a world record in 1986 when he completed the solo sail in his 60-foot American Promise in 150 days, 1 hour and 6 minutes, beating British sailor Chay Blyth, who took 292 days to accomplish the same feat in 1971.
Peter Bragdon, who served as headmaster of Governor Dummer Academy in Byfield, Mass., while Morgan was chairman of the trustees, described him as a “wild and wonderful guy.”
“He could not stand the naysayers. He could not stand the people who resisted change, who never made mistakes because they never did anything,” said Bragdon, of Exeter, N.H. “He celebrated the ‘yay-sayers’ who took the risk, who dared to be great, who made things happen.”
Morgan, who held a journalism degree from Boston University, bought the influential alternative weekly newspaper the Maine Times in 1985. He also owned the Casco Bay Weekly.
Edgar Allen Beem, who served as a staff writer for Morgan at the Maine Times, said, “He was always looking for an adventure. He had that kind of ‘gee-whiz, let’s-do-something’ attitude.”
CLARION, Pa. – James Winner, who marketed the steering-wheel lock known as The Club after his car was stolen in the 1980s, has died in a head-on collision in western Pennsylvania. He was 81.
Two other people also died when Winner’s sport utility vehicle crossed into oncoming traffic Tuesday “for unknown reasons” and collided with their car, state police said.
Winner sold the first Club in western Pennsylvania before creating Winner International, the Sharon-based company that has now sold more than 10 million units.