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Minn. Broadcasters Hall of Fame to Induct Mark and Paula Persons

Married for 46 years, they’ve put 12 stations on the air and serviced hundreds

The husband-and-wife team of Mark and Paula Persons have given a lifetime of service to the radio industry in Minnesota. For their efforts, both will be inducted into the Minnesota Broadcasters Hall of Fame in October.

Their contract-based engineering, based out of Brainerd, Minn., served the central and northern part of the state for more than 44 years, building and repairing radio stations. 

Mark received the SBE Lifetime Achievement Award in 2020, one of just 10 engineers to earn that illustrious honor. A contributor to Radio World, Mark also was SBE’s 2018 Engineer of the Year.

“Paula is half of our success story,” Mark told us, citing her financial acumen and business sense. Paula managed office operations 40 to 50 hours a week while Mark worked in the field.

Mark and Paula Persons at their ham station.

But she also spent many hours at transmitter sites over the years. And both Mark (WØMH) and Paula (WØHA) are Extra Class amateur radio operators, knowledge that allowed Paula to speak productively with other engineers about problems such as why a solid-state transmitter was running on reduced power.

The pair met while Mark was purchasing a home and Paula was a closing secretary; they married in 1978. Life-long Minnesotans, they’ve never had any interest in leaving their native state. “Even winter cold has its pluses when snowshoeing,” Mark said.

Mark spent three years in the U.S. Army, during which time he taught radar and electronic repair at Fort Monmouth, N.J. and worked on radios in aircraft in Vietnam. He was impressed by the craftmanship of Collins Radio equipment he used in wartime, including the Collins 618 HF Transceiver. He said he knew at the time that when he returned to the U.S., he’d go back to being a broadcast engineer, never having a plan B.

Mark’s father Charles B. Persons started in broadcast engineering in the 1920s and published a fascinating autobiography in 1996 detailing his 68-year radio career. The Persons family built 1450 WELY(AM) in Ely, Minn. when Mark was seven, running 250 watts at the time. 

“Even then I had my hands on the transmitter controls,” he said. At age 16, Mark did most of the wiring to put his family’s 1340 KVBR(AM) Brainerd on the air in 1964.

Among Mark’s most highly regarded skills is his construction of AM directional systems. The five-tower array for 650 WKKQ(AM), now WNMT, broadcasting from Nashwauk, Minn. stands out, needing to protect co-channel WSM(AM).

“It took a chunk of land 3/4 mile long by 1/4 mile wide to accommodate it. All the RF from phasor to antenna coupling networks were hand-built with coils and capacitors using just a schematic diagram as a guide,” Mark said.

Mark and Paula built two homes from which their business operated. One floor was dedicated to an electronics shop, office and some 40 feet of workbench space. That elbow room made it possible to design, build and repair electronic equipment, sometimes coming even from other countries. Specifications of their current lakeside Brainerd home of which they named Gilbert Lodge is available online in trademark detail.

Mark has shared his accumulation of knowledge as a valued Radio World contributor, with 212 articles and counting. While retired from engineering, his lifetime in broadcasting has not ended. His personal website is also chalk full of useful tech tips. He continues to mentor four broadcast engineers.

In her retirement, “Deep Diver Paula” enjoys scuba diving with more than 1,000 dives to her credit including some of the state’s 10,000 lakes and Bonaire in the Caribbean. Ever the Minnesotan, she’s even dived twice below lake ice in wintertime.

The Minnesota Broadcasters Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony and Dinner will take place Oct. 1 in Rochester, Minn. Ticketing information is available here.

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