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Radio Industry Remembers Engineer Gary Lee Ellingson

Upper Midwest engineer also patented antenna and tower technology

Gary EllingsonThe radio industry is mourning the death of long-time engineer Gary Lee Ellingson of Moorhead, Minn., who passed away on Oct. 11. He was 67.

According to an obituary on Inforum and the West Funeral Home in West Fargo, N.D., Ellingson was born to Oscar and Olga Ellingson of Thief River Falls, Minn., 24 years after the birth of his sister Helen. He was the youngest of four siblings, including Helen, Harry and Orville.

His father passed away after Ellingson turned two years old, and he and his mother regularly attended the Evangelical Free Church in Thief River Falls.

While working at a local radio station in the 1960s, Ellingson made a life-long commitment to religion and long talked about the correlation between current events and scripture. He pursued a career in missionary radio after attending Moody Bible Institute in Chicago in the fall of 1972. It was there that he met his wife, Billie Sue Shreve, and the two were married June 4, 1976, in Circleville, Ohio.

Ellingson went on to finish his college education at Northland Community College in Thief River Falls, including two years of electronics study at the Area Vocational Technical Institute, followed by Grace College of the Bible in Omaha, Neb.

While attending Grace, Ellingson worked full time as chief engineer for KGBI and KROA, two Grace radio ministries in Omaha and Grand Island, Neb. It was during that time that Ellingson developed a method of correcting interference between an antenna and the tower upon which it is mounted and distributing the mechanical load on the tower while allowing the antenna to be rotated around the tower. Through a friend in his Greek class at Grace, Ellingson was introduced to Wendell Miller, a registered professional mechanical engineer and patent agent in Goshen, Ind. Gary’s invention resulted in four United States Patents with the systems still being manufactured today.

Ellingson also worked for Motorola as a field service technician and then took a job as dispatcher-jailer at the newly constructed Law Enforcement Center in Thief River Falls where he installed all of the radio equipment.

Ellingson and Billie Sue moved back to Thief River Falls with their first two children, Daniel and Andrew, and he continued working in broadcast engineering as a field service engineer, and eventually went full time in manufacturing the antenna positioning system. He and a number of friends and relatives pooled resources to complete the patent process and went on to form Polar Research Inc.

The couple, with arrival of a third child, Mathew, moved to Moorhead, Minn., where Ellingson took a job teaching electronics at Moorhead Area Vocational-Technical School and he added a part-time announcer job at KFNW radio in Fargo. Their daughter, Kristin, was born shortly after moving to Moorhead.

In addition, he served as a pastor at New Hope Evangelical Free Church in Moorhead and went on to become director of engineering for the University of Northwestern in St. Paul, Minn., a missionary and liberal arts university.

Ellingson is survived by his children Daniel (Alissa) from Woodbury, Minn; Andrew (Krystyna) from Thief River Falls, Minn.; Matthew (Maria) from Minnetonka, Minn.; and Kristin from North Dakota. He is also survived by nine grandchildren: Samuel and Abigail from Woodbury; Gweneth, Logan, Farrah and Natalie from Thief River Falls; and Layla, Penny and Gloria from Minnetonka. He was preceded in death by his parents Oscar and Olga; his siblings Harry, Orville, and Helen (Adamson); and his wife Billie Sue, who passed away Dec. 1, 2018.

At Ellingson’s request, in lieu of gifts or flowers, please consider giving the equivalent amount to Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, 3755 Mansell Road, Alpharetta, Ga., 30022 or Bethel Church, 2702 30th Avenue South, Fargo, N.D., 58103.

Visitation will be held at West Funeral Home, West Fargo, N.D., on Oct. 23, with the funeral held at 11 a.m. on Thursday, Oct. 24, at Bethel Church in Fargo, N.D. Burial will be at Sunset Memorial Gardens in Fargo.


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