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Mark Olds, broadcaster, radio executive, dies at 88

Mark Olds, a broadcaster and radio executive who worked at stations around the country before landing in New York City and who helped give Phil Donahue his start, has died. He was 88.

Olds, of Port Washington, worked in the radio business for four decades and honed his craft at stations in cities including Reno, Philadelphia, Chicago and Cleveland before settling down at two stations in New York, WRVR and WWRL.

When he retired in 1982, he was general manager of the two stations and president of Riverside Broadcasting Co., said his wife of 53 years, the writer Sally Wendkos Olds.

Olds died Oct. 8 after suffering a stroke four days earlier.

Sally Olds said her husband was fond of saying that working in broadcasting was like being a baseball player - advancing in the business by moving from city to city. It was a lesson Mark Olds tried to impart to a young Phil Donahue, whom he hired for a gig as a summer announcer in the late 1950s, she said.

While Olds spent much of his career as an executive, his wife said he owed part of his career to his "beautiful voice."

She continued: "When my mother first heard him talk, she said, 'Sally, what a voice.' "

At WWRL, Olds, who was white, served as general manager of a station with a primarily black listenership. Bob Law, whom Olds hired as the stations' public affairs coordinator in the early 1970s, said Olds worked to give black employees creative input.

"He was open to the things we were telling him that were resonating in the black community," he said.

Olds, born in Brooklyn, graduated from Brooklyn College and later took broadcasting courses at New York University and Harvard University.

He was awarded a Purple Heart for injuries sustained in the Battle of the Bulge as a captain in the U.S. Army, Sally Olds said.

In addition to his wife, Olds is survived by daughters Nancy Olds, 52, Jennifer Moebus, 51, and Dorri Olds, 47; and five grandchildren.

Family and friends plan to hold a private celebration of Olds' life, Sally Olds said. His body will be donated to SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn for research, she said. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that well-wishers make a donation to the charity of their choice, she said.

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