Jack Ellsworth, a World War II veteran and former radio station owner who played big-band music over the Long Island airwaves for more than half a century, died Thursday at Brookhaven Memorial Hospital Medical Center. He was 91.
He died from renal failure, almost two months after his wife and business partner of 61 years, Dorothy Shiebler, died on July 16, his son Glenn Shiebler, of Wrentham, Mass., said.
"He really died of a broken heart," Shiebler said. "They were inseparable."
The two ran the independent radio station WLIM/1580 AM together from 1981 to 2001. He played the likes of Frank Sinatra and Benny Goodman and broadcast news. After they sold the Patchogue station, he moved his show to WALK/1370 AM. Ellsworth, who became known as the "Silver Fox," performed his final radio show on Aug. 1.
"He never wanted to retire," Shiebler said. "He loved it. It was part of who he was."
The son of a newspaper reporter, he grew up in Brooklyn, where he developed a passion for Dodgers games at Ebbets Field. He enlisted in the Marines in World War II and was sent to the South Pacific as a combat correspondent, Shiebler said.
After the war, he began working in radio, first in Rhode Island, then in New Jersey and finally on Long Island. He met Dorothy in the summer of 1951 in Huntington. They married in November.
He was born Ellsworth Shiebler but decided the name wasn't good for radio and began using Jack Ellsworth. To family members he was still "Ell," Shiebler said.
His radio career encompassed different roles at various Long Island radio stations: from disc jockey, to president and general manager, to owner.
"I loved doing it and loved keeping the music alive because it's so good, it has to be heard," Ellsworth told the Long Island Advance earlier this year.
Ellsworth had the ability to make people feel they were part of a conversation, Shiebler said. "He made the listeners feel like they were family," he said.
Looking back at his life in broadcasting in his memoir, "Memories in Melody: A Lifetime of Experiences from the Golden Era of Popular Music," published last year, he wrote that in a time of continual change it's important to value everyday experiences.
"Whether we are nine years old or ninety, like yours truly, we all need to cherish the moment, appreciate simple pleasures and look around at what we probably take for granted," he wrote.
He is also survived by another son, Gary of Nashville, a daughter, Susan of East Patchogue, a sister, Ruth of upstate Ballston Spa, and nine grandchildren.
Visiting hours will be 12 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 10 p.m. Sunday at the Robertaccio Funeral Home in Patchogue. His funeral will be at 10 a.m. Monday the Congregational Church of Patchogue. He will be buried at Woodland Cemetery in Bellport.