Donald N. Lange, 100, radio station engineer, WWII veteran who helped save the Riviera Theater | Featured Obituaries


A technical sergeant, during the last days of the war, he was part of a group that built a radio station in a mansion in the historic city of Nanjing, China, north of Shanghai, still occupied by the Japanese.

“We had been in Nanjing for months. We had no idea what was going on. It was completely secret,” he told Buffalo News reporter Jane Kwiatkowski in 2019. “We didn’t know what we were doing other than setting up this station, and to this day, I think it was to support communications with the Japanese for peace talks. ”

On his return from service, he became an amateur radio operator, set up a radio repair workshop at home, then became an engineer at WEBR. He installed a 10-foot whip antenna on his car, which caught the attention of Thelma Fullington, a clerk at a neighborhood drug store. When he stopped one rainy day and offered to drive her home, she agreed. After 11 weeks of dating, they married in 1953.

As chief engineer at the radio station until his retirement in 1987, he had to be available for emergencies around the clock.

“He was getting calls in the middle of the night and had to go out and fix the antenna,” his daughter said.

He built a pipe organ in his basement – although he never learned to play it, one of his sons did – and when free tickets to theater organ performances were available at the radio station, he took his family. When the Mighty Wurlitzer stopped working in the middle of a gig, he decided to troubleshoot it.

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