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Obituary: Mark Olds

Mark Olds, a radio executive in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Cleveland and St. Louis, died on Oct. 8, 2009 at North Shore University Hospital, Manhasset, after suffering a stroke on Oct. 4. He was 88 years old and had lived in Port Washington for 41 years.

Mr. Olds had a long career in broadcasting. When he retired in 1982 he was the president of Riverside Broadcasting Company and general manager of the New York radio stations WRVR and WWRL. He had previously served as general manager of WMAQ in Chicago, WINS in New York and KATZ in St. Louis. He also served as program director of WNEW in New York, KYW in Philadelphia and KYW in Cleveland.

He got his start in radio as an announcer in Philadelphia (WIP and WCAU), WSA in Rochester, KOLO in Reno and WNLC in New London. He advised aspiring broadcasters to begin in small markets, get experience, and then move up. He compared broadcasting to baseball, making the point that advancement usually means moving to a different city. He gave Phil Donahue his start in broadcasting when he hired him as a summer relief radio announcer in Cleveland, and when he saw Donahue a few years ago in the “green room,” Donahue acknowledged Mark’s role in his own career.

Mark served as a captain in the U.S. Army in the European theater during the Battle of the Bulge, and was awarded a Purple Heart for injuries sustained there, along with five campaign ribbons. He worked in the Signal Corps Intelligence Division, which intercepted and decoded German bulletins. He also served in Nancy, France, where he was charged with finding high ground to access enemy broadcasts and also finding quarters for his troops. He often repeated his recollection of encountering General George Patton, who took then Lieutenant Olds’ name to cite him for driving his jeep on the left-hand side of the road to pass the Third Army’s military convoy. Nothing ever came of the incident except a favorite memory.

The letter he wrote to his parents about the liberation of Dachau concentration camp was published in the book Lines of Battle: Letters from American Servicemen, 1941-1945, edited by Annette Tapert (Times Books, 1987). He was interviewed as a liberator by the Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation and as a WWII veteran by the Museum of Jewish Heritage G.I. Oral History Project.

He graduated cum laude from Brooklyn College, with a B.A. in speech and music, and after WWII, went to school under the G.I. Bill and studied broadcasting at New York University. Later he completed broadcasting courses at Harvard University.

From 1984 to 1991 as an adjunct professor at Fordham University he taught courses in broadcast management, American broadcasting, and morals and ethics. During this time he wrote and published several articles.

His survivors include his wife of over 53 years, Sally Wendkos Olds; his daughters, Nancy Olds, Jennifer Moebus and Dorri Olds; and five grandchildren, Stefan, Maika and Lisa Moebus, Anna Hollembeak and Nina Rose Olds. The family requests that anyone wanting to honor his memory should make a contribution to a charity of their choice.