RIP George Zeller: Losing a giant in our shortwave radio world

George Zeller at the Winter SWL Fest Pirate Radio forum (Photo by Paul Kaltenbach)

Many of us who were friends with George Zeller or who regularly attend the Winter SWL Fest are devastated to learn that this well-loved SWL personality passed away after an unintentional electrical fire in his Cleveland home on Saturday March 20, 2021.

Richard D’Angelo with NASWA posted this message about George:

I was shocked and saddened to learn of George Zeller’s sudden passing earlier today (March 20) in a house fire this morning. I had exchanged emails with George earlier this week on NASWA editorial matters as he was slowly recovering from his recent Covid-19 vaccination. The news article in the online Cleveland Comeback mentioned overcrowded electrical outlets/extension cords as the cause of the accidental fire. George was 71 years old.

George and I knew each other for about 40 years. George came to several DXpeditions at Gifford Pinchot and French Creek State Parks. We attended many of the same radio hobby gatherings over the years. For several years, I traveled to Cleveland for work; George and I would go out to dinner on those occasions. Naturally, any time my company was mentioned in the local newspaper George would eagerly forward that information to me. George also traveled to the Winter SWL Festival in Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania each year to gather with like minded radio people. He attended other radio conventions too over the year’s throughout the country.

George at a Gifford Pinchot State Park DXpedition

George was well known in the greater Cleveland area as an Economist who kept close tabs on the Ohio economy. The Economic Indicators project he worked on provided continually updated information on poverty, earnings, and the economy in all Ohio counties and communities, with related demographics. In Ohio, Economic Indicators data include annual income trends for all 612 Ohio school districts. Detailed data was also available for job growth and payroll earnings in all Ohio counties going back to 1979, including measures of the very large job losses suffered by Cleveland and Ohio during the 2000s recession that has lingered longer in Ohio than it did elsewhere in the United States. Over the year’s he mixed with local political figures and served as a volunteer in a number of community organizations serving the greater Cleveland area. He was a regular on several talk radio programs when Ohio’s economy was the lead topic.

George was an active baseball and football fan. He attended baseball games wherever he could. He spent time traveling to difference cities attending games in many major league and minor league baseball stadiums. I recall making such a trip to Camden Yards in Baltimore with several others to catch an Orioles-Yankees baseball game when my children were youngsters. He was an enthusiastic Cleveland Indians and Cleveland Browns fan going back to the glory days of the 1950’s. He never forgave the Indians for trading away Rocky Colavito.

For twenty years George wrote a column about unlicensed pirate and clandestine shortwave radio broadcasting news in Monitoring Times magazine. He was also a contributing editor to Passport to World Band Radio, the definitive guide to international shortwave broadcasting frequencies, schedules, and receiving equipment. For decades he wrote a column on Clandestine radio broadcasting in the monthly issues of The ACE from the Association of Clandestine Radio Enthusiasts. Annually, he hosted the Pirate Radio Forum at the Winter SWL Festival in Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania as well as being the host of the prize raffle at the Saturday night banquet. In recent years, George was the editor of the Pirate Radio Report column for the North American Shortwave Association. He joined NASWA in December 1965 as a lad of sixteen.

Left to right: Rich D’Angelo and George Zeller at the Winter SWL Fest

George was always fun to be with and a real character to boot. No matter what the topic of the conversation was, he had a story that may or may not have been pertinent. There was never a dull moment when he was part of the group. George Zeller will be missed by all of us.

Thank you for sharing, Rich.

In the news article about the house fire, his neighbor described George as always kind and somewhat reclusive. With his radio community, he was everything but reclusive.

George wearing his ceremonial cheese hat and goggles at a Winter SWL Fest banquet. (Photo by Larry Willl)

George had a huge personality, amazing sense of humor, and perhaps what I admired about him most was his ability to poke fun of himself. A quality I hold in high regard.

We will miss you, George.

From Cleaveland.com (22 March 2021): George Zeller, economist, advocate for the poor and RTA riders, dies in house fire

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11 thoughts on “RIP George Zeller: Losing a giant in our shortwave radio world

  1. Rober Zeller

    Thanks to the writer and all of the comments. I am his younger brother and we appreciate the outpouring of respect.
    Robert Zeller
    Knoxville Tennessee

    Reply
    1. Jennea jones

      I am jennea jones. My dad, John aka Mike Jones was such good friends with George. He was my uncle even if we weren’t blood. He was an amazing, smart, compassionate man. I haven’t even seen him in forever and I xan still remember sitting in the stadium at the Indians games with Kathy and my brother loved when ” uncle” John adams hit that drum….

      Reply
  2. Jacob Brodsky, AB3A

    I heard the announcement last night on WTWW. May he rest in peace, and thank you Mr. Zeller.

    Reply
  3. John B

    Oh, this is such bad news. I came to appreciate George’s columns in The Ace of the early 90s and elsewhere in the SWL radio hobby. He wrote well, and his columns were always loaded with info and a pleasure to read. This is a real loss to the radio listener hobby as well as to other friends and family.

    Man, I bet we all have overloaded outlets….

    RIP George.

    Reply
  4. Edith

    This is such a tragic event and a terrible loss. I can’t imagine the Fest without him. He leaves a gaping hole. Godspeed, George.

    Reply
  5. ThaDood

    WOW!!! That was a hard TEXT to get while at work yesterday. Known George since an ACE get-together in 1990. Then, when the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame opened in Cleveland, I went to his house. He had some serious gear back in the early 1990’s. Never made it to a Winterfest to see him talk at one of those, but thanks to those that posted downloadable links on The FRN, I have several of his talks. (Hmmmmmm… As a tribute this Easter coming up, I should air them.) And, of course, I remember reading his columns in The A.C.E. Newletter and Monitoring Times. May George catch the ultimate DX.

    Reply

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