Glenn B. Farnsworth, 93, KYW-TV electrical engineer for 38 years

Posted: January 24, 2014

ERNIE KOVACS, the legendary actor and comedian who got his start in Philadelphia television, knew what he wanted to make his show great. He just didn't know how to get it.

That was where Glenn Farnsworth came in.

Glenn was an electrical engineer for KYW-TV for nearly 40 years, and when Kovacs, the irascible, unpredictable comic, came to town in the early '50s, Glenn had his work cut out for him.

"Kovacs was constantly innovating," said Robert Strauss, a veteran local journalist, "but often didn't know the engineering to get what he wanted done, and he depended on Farnsworth to get that part."

And Glenn, who himself had a rich sense of humor, took it all in stride.

Ernie wanted microphones out of sight. OK, Glenn figured out how to suspend a mic overhead, and then further discovered a way to have it transmit the sounds wirelessly.

Glenn B. Farnsworth, whose career with KYW-TV (now CBS3) also involved traveling with reporters as the sound man on stories ranging from riots in the city streets to a cave-in in coal country to coverage of celebrities and politicians and the local sports teams, died Jan. 14. He was 93 and lived in Medford Lakes, N.J.

He was an Army veteran of World War II.

"I remember Glenn telling me great tales of his days with Ernie Kovacs," said Frank Traynor, KYW NewsRadio anchor and former executive producer at KYW-TV. "I recall him talking to me about innovations and the tricks he used and things he invented and introduced to keep Ernie's fertile brain happy."

That brain conjured up such tricks as climbing a ladder to pour water on a weatherman predicting rain, running through the streets in a gorilla costume, wrestling a jaguar. And who could forget Howard, the World's Strongest Ant?

Keeping up with such shenanigans had Glenn in a near-constant state of ingenuity. These were the early days of television when many techniques were made up on the spot.

"I think Glenn told me that he helped create two items he just mentioned in passing that blew me away - the shotgun mic and the wireless mic," Traynor said.

"My jaw dropped and he just said that back in the early days of TV you did what you could to create a good show. What always amazed me about Glenn was that I was in awe of his brains and talent, and to him it was no big deal, just things he had to do to get the job done and keep the talent happy."

Dick Standish, retired CBS3 reporter, said Glenn was a good man to work with. "In the '70s, he was in 'Eyewitness News' on the street doing audio and photography," Standish said. "He was a veteran broadcaster and was always willing to share his insights and advice - especially with a newcomer.

"He had a unique, wry sense of humor. For me, it made every shoot enjoyable no matter the assignment or the weather."

"Working with Ernie Kovacs was his pride and joy," said his wife, the former Myrtle McBeth. "They did crazy things, made crazy sound effects. They would go wild. He had a great time."

Kovacs went on to TV in New York, then to a career in the movies before he was killed in a car crash in Los Angeles on Jan. 13, 1962.

Glenn Farnsworth was born in Carroll, Iowa, to Ralph and Pearl Byerly Farnsworth. The family moved to Huntingdon, Ind., where he went to high school. He built his own amateur radio set while in school.

He entered the Army in World War II and served in the Signal Corps. The Army sent him to Drexel University for two years, studying electrical engineering.

He met his future wife in a Philadelphia roller-skating rink. They were marred in 1943.

Glenn was working for Philadelphia Gas Works, reading meters, when he heard that KYW was hiring. He went to the studio on Walnut Street and was hired.

His wife was not happy.

"I was pregnant," she said. "Here he had a good job with the Gas Works and he took a job in television making less money. But he never regretted it - and neither did I."

Both Glenn and his wife were ham-radio enthusiasts. They belonged to a group called the Roosters, because they got up at 4 a.m. - with the roosters - to start broadcasting.

Glenn was a great tinkerer. He rigged up his house in Jersey so that if an intruder stepped into his yard or knocked on his door, bells rang and lights flashed.

"He often worked late and I was home by myself," Myrtle said. "He wanted to make sure I was safe."

Besides his wife, he is survived by a son, Craig R. Farnsworth, three grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

Services: Were Jan. 16.

Donations may be made to Medford Lakes Lions Cabulance, P.O. Box 2105, Medford Lakes, NJ 08055.

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