Hurwitz remembered as ‘voice of Lake Tahoe’
May 15, 2008
Lake Tahoe has lost its voice.
Gerald “Jerry” Hurwitz died Wednesday after a lengthy illness. The 57-year-old radio personality and news director had been hospitalized the past eight months.
“He was the best friend I ever had in my life,” said Paul Middlebrook, former Tribune publisher and another longtime radio man. “He was the community’s best friend. He never said no to anyone.”
Hurwitz moved to South Lake Tahoe 31 years ago, where he and his wife, Colleen, raised three children. He owned Jericho Picture Frames in the Lampton Plaza, now Factory Stores at the “Y.”
Upon doing the narration for his shop’s commercials on KRLT, Hurwitz discovered his calling.
“He was intrigued by the radio,” said his close friend Bill Kingman, who now works for KTHO. “I showed him how to operate the equipment, and he was like a babe in toyland.”
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Hurwitz began producing his commercials. He even brought his guitar to the studio and made a four-track recording complete with harmonies of a Beach Boys song, replacing “Barbara Ann” with “Jericho.”
A collector of early rock ‘n’ roll records by artists such as Chuck Berry and Little Richard, Hurwitz convinced the station manager to give him a Saturday oldies show. He assumed the name “Orville Oldies” and bought customized license plates for his car.
Hurwitz and Middlebrook collaborated on numerous community events.
“He and I would emcee every event in town,” Middlebrook said. “I used to say, ‘You can get Hurwitz for free, and if you double that, you can get Middlebrook, too.’ “
“When those two got together, they would laugh so much they’d be rolling on the ground crying,” said Hurwitz’s daughter, Carrie Staniford.
A huge sports fan, Hurwitz also was the radio play-by-play announcer for the South Tahoe High School football and basketball teams.
“Oh, boy, did he know his sports,” Kingman said. “He could cite facts and figures without looking them up.”
But he was an even a bigger fan of his children.
“We were a big sports family,” Staniford said. “We did all the sports, plus swimming and karate. He never missed a practice or a game, even if we were in Elko.”
One eccentricity was his attire.
“He always wore shorts and tennis shoes,” Kingman said. “I don’t care if it was a blizzard, I never saw him in a pair of pants or a long-sleeved shirt. I did see him in pants once at a station Christmas dinner.”
There was another occasion at Christmastime when he wore long pants – the time Hurwitz, who was Jewish, dressed up as Santa Claus.
“He appreciated our outfitting the store for Hanukkah,” said Doug Mundy of Tahoe Valley Pharmacy. “I met him at the frame shop. He did some pieces for me.”
Hurwitz, Kingman and Dean Adraktas hosted Talk of Tahoe for several years on KOWL, and Hurwitz brought generations of schoolchildren on the air to perform weather reports.
“Everybody knew Jerry’s voice,” Kingman said. “He was an excellent newscaster and just a very dependable guy. He was never late to work. But I remember one day he got to the station, and he had forgotten his keys. So he smashed open the window to get in. He left a note saying, ‘I did it.’ He paid to fix it, too.”
“He was real down-home,” said Howie Nave, the KRLT morning disc jockey. “He wasn’t pretentious. He’d always find the funny in everything.”
Nave never had been on the radio before starting at KRLT.
“He was a mentor to me,” Nave said. “He gave me some great advice. He told me to pretend like you are speaking to one person.”
Health was a longtime issue for Hurwitz, who had a heart attack when he was 26.
“He was sick my entire life but has been more of a dad than any other dad I’ve been around,” Staniford said. “We were the most important things in his life. His family was the most important thing.”
Hurwitz remained strong in spirit in his final months.
“He was always positive,” Mundy said. “He made the best of a terrible disease state.”
Hurwitz’s daughter agreed.
“He was never really sad; he was never really mad,” she said. “He knew where people need to be, and he could get them where they needed to be.”
“When Jerry left radio three years ago, he left big shoes to fill,” Middlebrook said. “Nobody can fill them. He was the voice of Lake Tahoe.”
Services for Hurwitz will be at St. Theresa Catholic Church at 1:30 p.m. May 24.