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Pat Shea, Engineer Who Was 'Integral' to WDIY's Launch, Dies at 86 | WDIY Local News

Pat Shea sits in a chair at the WDIY studios.
Pat Shea sits in the WDIY studios during a station party.

Patric "Pat" Shea, a WDIY engineer who played a crucial role in the station's start-up, died Monday at the VNA Hospice of St. Luke's University Health Network in Lower Saucon Township. He was 86 years-old.

Shea first served as a volunteer engineer for WDIY in the lead up to the station's on-air launch in 1995. Charles James, who was board president of the Lehigh Valley Community Broadcasters Association (LVCBA) at the time, recalls bringing Shea aboard. "Pat led the engineering committee, working with our contracted engineer, Charlie Loughery, who conducted the engineering study and ultimately installed the broadcast and studio equipment to get WDIY on the air."

Upon hearing the news of Shea's passing, Loughtery said, "I really enjoyed working with Pat during the construction of WDIY. [It’s] hard to believe that was just over 30 years ago, and I'm now about 10 years older than Pat was then."

Shea was born in Batavia, New York and spent his career as a chemical and nuclear engineer at GPU Nuclear in Parsippany, New Jersey. Following his retirement, he moved to Bethlehem where he began volunteering with WDIY. "Pat’s background as an engineer and a project manager were invaluable to WDIY going on-air," said Rick Weaver, who was LVCBA board vice president at the time.

Weaver recalled Shea leading the team that installed the wiring from the rooftop antenna to the station's studios, a task that required drilling through concrete walls that were three feet thick in the E.P. Wilbur Trust Co. Flatiron Building in south Bethlehem. "[Pat] used to joke that the Yankee bankers were going to be darn sure that no Confederates were ever going to get up that far north and steal their money."

A newspaper clipping from The Morning Vall showing the installation of a satellite dish on the WDIY rooftop in 1994. Once installed, Pat Shea would oversee the team which would wire the dish to WDIY's broadcast studios.
Contributed Photo
The Morning Call
A 1994 newspaper clipping from The Morning Call shows the installation of a satellite dish on the rooftop of the E.P. Wilbur Trust Co. Flatiron Building. Once installed, Pat Shea would oversee the team which would wire the dish to WDIY's studios.

"Pat was an enormous asset to the station," said WDIY Operations Director Neil Hever. After being hired in 1997, Hever recalled working with Shea frequently on WDIY's equipment. This included the replacement of both of the station's sound boards, the addition of station translators on 93.9 and 93.7 FM, and antenna repairs for the 88.1 FM signal. "His advice for faulty equipment always included, 'first, jiggle the wire!"

If Shea was known for anything more than his engineering knowledge, it was was his quick wit and fondness for quoting Irish philosophy and stories. "Pat was an amiable Irishman who was able to turn a phrase in a unique way," said James. As Hever recalls, "Pat was fond of plaid shirts and appeared a bit old school with his suspenders and cap. You knew he was coming to visit slightly in advance because he was preceded by a whiff of pipe tobacco."

His advice for faulty equipment always included, 'first, jiggle the wire!'
WDIY Operations Director Neil Hever describing Pat Shea.

Sporting a jovial personality and a love for amateur radios, Shea found a welcoming home at the burgeoning community radio station. "He loved working with the station staff, as well as the volunteers," James recalls.

Yet, as someone who leaned conservative in his politics and was a regular listener to Rush Limbaugh, Shea might seem like an unusual fit for a station with NPR programming. "He thought the music schedule was intriguing, more so than the NPR programming," recalls James. "I believe Pat realized that he could make a big difference for the community in creating a radio station to broadcast its diverse music schedule. I believe that he also thought it would be a great way to bring the community together at the station with knowledgeable volunteer programmers hosting radio programs."

Shea continued to volunteer with WDIY later in his life, most recently serving on the station's 25th anniversary committee in 2020. "Not only was Pat integral to the start of WDIY, he continued to volunteer with us for over 25 years," said Alison DelRe, WDIY's Director of Community Relations. Shea's wife of 21 years, Cate, would also serve as a longstanding volunteer at the station.

Shea is survived by his wife along with his three children, two step-children, and 5 grandchildren. A service will be held at St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church in Bethlehem on Friday, January 19 at 10 a.m.

"He will be sorely missed and fondly remembered by those whose lives he touched," said Sharon Ettinger, who was WDIY's Development Director during the station's first decade of broadcasting. "Thanks to him, WDIY came to be on the air."

Shamus is WDIY's Membership and Development Director, responsible for managing the station's membership activities, grant writing, public relations, and online activities. He is also the producer and host of Tape Swap Radio.
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