When we saw a photo of Jim Natoli’s radio-themed headstone, Radio World asked contributor Dan Slentz to find out more about the man it memorializes.
Nestled in Tuscarawas County, Ohio, are the twin communities of Uhrichsville and Dennison. Here stands an AM/FM station built by a broadcast engineer.
The local industry was clay pipe; and the engineer was Ignasio Natoli, whom everyone called Jim. He was a first-generation American; his mom and dad came from Sicily.
Jim served during World War II as an Army staff sergeant in the Signal Corps, then attended Akron University; he also worked in the FCC’s Detroit office administering tests and with regional administration.
In the 1950s, according to family members, Jim took a job as a cameraman at WKYC(TV) in Cleveland; he eventually graduated to engineer over his 30 years there.
Meanwhile, in 1959, Jim and his mother Mary formed Tuscarawas Broadcasting Company with the hopes of putting an AM radio station in their community. After nearly four years, they succeeded in launching 1540 WBTC, which stood for Wonderful Beautiful Tuscarawas County. Jim continued to work for the TV station, commuting that hour drive from home in Uhrichsville and his AM station, and his other job in Cleveland.
In 1970, Jim added 95.9 FM to the AM station, with the call letters WNPQ, which stood for New Philadelphia Quakers. The station was licensed to nearby New Philadelphia; the Quakers was the team name for the high school sports.
Jim retired from WKYC in the early ’80s but continued to manage his AM and FM station with the love and passion of a parent. He never married nor had kids, so these stations were truly his love. He continued to work at them until 2016 when he turned 98; he was a daily part of their operation until an injury put him in assisted living. Jim recruited some relatives and trusted friends to keep the station running.
He passed away just short of his 99th birthday, which would have been July 4, 2017. His relatives were willed the station and have taken on the responsibility of keeping WBTC and WNPQ on the air and growing with a small staff. The stations carry classic hits and Christian programming, respectively. Jim’s dream continues to this day.
When he died, Jim Natoli’s niece paid tribute to her uncle through the design of a unique headstone appropriate for a man who lived a life dedicated to his radio love, WBTC(AM) and WNPQ(FM).
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