Arthur N. Paradis, W8KAY|
Arthur Nelson Paradis, lifelong resident of Kenmore, passed away peacefully on April 18, 2014 in Memphis, Tenn. with his niece by his side. He was 96. Art enjoyed a lifetime of exceptional health, but despite an incredible battle, was taken down by hospital-acquired infections after renal failure.
Art was born January 20, 1918 in Wyoming, Ohio to Arthur William and Elma Louise (Pope) Paradis. The young family came to Akron shortly after his birth so that his father, a civil engineer with experience in railroad building and telegraph, could work in the rubber industry. Art's brother Robert John "Bob" Paradis was born in Kenmore on November 15, 1919. As children they were inseparable.
Arthur W. had a fascination with radios that he shared with his boys. Together they built crystal sets and learned all there was to know about the emerging field of electronics. During the Great Depression, Arthur W. went to work for the WPA as a civil engineer. One of his projects was the amphitheater in Chestnut Ridge Park. Elma took in sewing and worked at Davis Laundry. Art and Bob sold apples and cookies (that their mother baked) door-to-door, delivered newspapers and hauled heavy batteries in their wagon between Pfeiffer Hill and Petit's Garage for charging. Many houses didn't have electricity, so needed the batteries to power their radios. Aside from helping keep the family going, the boys were enterprising, working odd jobs to save a few pennies for their electronics hobby.
Art attended Pfeiffer School and Kenmore High, graduating in January 1935. He survived stints in pest control (the chemicals were exceptionally toxic) and laundry service, rising to the level of manager at Davis Laundry when World War II broke out. Wishing to serve his country as a radio operator, Art enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard Reserves, stationed at USCG Cleveland. He was activated shortly thereafter and sent to Lake Superior to outfit civilian yachts with radios to listen for Germans infiltrating the Great Lakes.
Dravo Shipyard, Pittsburgh was his next assignment: outfitting LST-782. Upon completion they sailed down the Monongahela, Ohio and Mississippi Rivers then through the Panama Canal and out to the Pacific. Art was the Radioman in charge of all communications. LST-782 stopped at all the major ports of call in the Pacific Theater.
LST-782 saw action at Okinawa and Iwo Jima. On the beach after discharging the Marines and their tanks during the battle for Iwo, LST-782's ramp would not close. The ship was not seaworthy with the ramp extended and they were under heavy enemy fire. They had to withdraw from the beach or lose the ship and its men. The seamen responsible for operation and repair could not fix it, so RM1 Paradis - the fix-it man - came to the bow. He quickly found the problem (it was electrical), closed the ramp and the ship returned to sea with no fatalities and only a handful of minor injuries. The LST and its medics then set up a field hospital, saving even more lives.
After the war, LST-782 was sent to the scrapyard. Noting his exceptional service, his commanders wanted Art to remain on military duty, offering him his choice of some interesting assignments in Intelligence as a commissioned officer. One he almost took was to Mongolia, but he turned down that opportunity to return to Akron to partner in his brother's growing business.
Bob spent the war years scavenging radio parts to cobble together functional radios. He sold so many that he had a hard time meeting demand. Before the end of the war, Bob bought the building at 1041 Kenmore Blvd. and started Radio Parts and Service Co. As the business expanded, Art handled most of the repair work and house calls, including climbing roofs to install antennas. Bob concentrated on sales, design and business expansion.
With the success of Radio Parts and Service Co., Art and Bob branched out into producing aircraft communication and navigation radios and parts as U. S. Naviguide Corp. Their "AT-103B" aircraft radio was very popular and sold around the world. Hundreds were produced in the '50s and '60s. The AT-103B had its own battery so it fit a niche market of airplanes that didn't have electrical systems. Bob recognized the need for the AT-103B because he learned to fly and eventually bought his own airplane. By the late 1960s, U.S. Naviguide Corp. moved into producing custom electronics for other companies. After Bob died in 1973, Art ran AP Electronics out of his home until retirement.
Art never married, but remained close to his niece Kimberly as her beloved "Unkie". After he retired, he realized he wasn't in a hurry anymore, so decided to walk or take the bus wherever he needed to go. Rain, snow or shine he was often seen walking down Kenmore Boulevard or up Battles Avenue, over to Rolling Acres Mall or even Downtown or Chapel Hill. He was a regular on the Metro Buses and became good friends with many of the drivers. Almost daily he could be found at the Kenmore Library, researching a new topic of interest. He had a sharp, inquisitive and eclectic mind with interests ranging from Greek history to astronomy to nutrition. Art remained an active Amateur Extra radio operator his entire life, erecting an enormous antenna tower in his backyard. The powerful transmitter and Morse code signals from W8KAY were heard around the world. He chatted for decades on 144 Mc every night and participated in the VHF Moon bounce.
In his backyard, Art maintained a wonderful garden where he grew some of the biggest, firmest and tastiest tomatoes ever. He always ensured his friends had plenty every summer. He was a good friend to many, a kind hand with a biscuit for the neighborhood dogs, and the quiet do-it-yourselfer who wasn't a bother to everyone else.
Art is survived by his niece, Kimberly Paradis Coryat; son-in-law, John Coryat; and grand-niece, Catherine Paradis Coryat of Memphis, Tenn.; and nephew, Robert John Paradis II of Oneonta, NY. He was predeceased by his brother, Robert John Paradis on December 25, 1973; his father Arthur W. on February 14, 1957; mother Elma on April 11, 1969; and a score of friends in Kenmore.
Art will be interred in Greenlawn Memorial Park with a graveside ceremony honoring his life on May 30th at 3 p.m. Arrangements have been entrusted to Schulp-Pucak Funeral Home, 788 Kenmore Blvd., Akron OH 44314. The Schlup Pucak Funeral Home os honored to serve the Paradis family, private messages and memories of Arthur can be shared at schluppucakfh.com.
Published in Akron Beacon Journal on May 25, 2014