Chester "Chet" Sawicki

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Jan. 27, 2013

Chester "Chet" Sawicki, 86, of Mountain Top, passed away on Sunday, Jan. 27, 2013 in Smith Healthcare, surrounded by his loving family.

Chester was born on May 16, 1926 to Agnes and Stanislaw Sawicki of Miners Mills, Wilkes-Barre. He was the youngest of eight brothers and a sister.

Chester graduated from Coughlin High School in 1944 after which he enlisted in the Air Force. He attended several radio schools while in service, operating a radio on cargo planes making trips to Panama. After being discharged in 1946, he attended the Central Radio and Television School in Missouri, where he continued his studies in radio and television, until receiving his FCC license in 1947.

He returned home to Wilkes-Barre and took a job at WYZZ-FM radio.

In June of 1949, he married Dorothy Kaporch, also of Miners Mills, and they enjoyed over 63 happy years together, moving to Mountain Top in 1957.

In February of 1950, WYZZ-FM folded and Chester was soon hired by WILK AM, which later became, with his help, WILK-TV. In 1956, WILK-TV merged with WARM Radio when purchased by the Trans-Continental Co. and took the new call letters WNEP-TV, where Chester eventually worked his way to Chief Engineer, a position he would enjoy as a rewarding career in the forefront of the latest and some of the most exciting advancements in the history of American television.

Shortly after being named Chief Engineer at WNEP, TAFT Broadcasting would purchase the station and make many new improvements with Chester's oversight. He designed and built the first live satellite news truck in the country. He implemented the first remote-control transmitter in the area, bought film projectors for the news studios, and installed the first video-tape recorders. Next, the station purchased their first color cameras. The station was remodeled to incorporate the new equipment, with a master control, video-tape room and a projection area, all under Chester's direction and design. In 1972, Chester designed the first computer-operated television station in the United States. The design was built for the station by the General Electric Co. under Chester's supervision with engineers from TAFT.

To improve the signal strength from the new equipment, Chester also oversaw the installation of a new 800-foot tower at their transmitter at Penobscot Mountain, helping to make WNEP-TV the No. 1 station in the area, a position it still holds to this day.

Throughout his career, Chester had been named to several professional organizations, many of which extended him lifetime membership. Some of these included the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers. The Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, The Society of Broadcast Engineers, as well as being listed in "Who's Who in Technology Today," which describes itself as "a national directory of leading professionals who've made significant contributions to the knowledge and advancement of science and technology."

He was recognized as an industry pioneer and a national authority on UHF television transmission. He also pioneered the installation of the first fiber-optic cables for television transmission in Northeastern Pennsylvania. In 1986, after years of continued success under Chester's guidance, WNEP-TV was purchased by the New York Times Co., at which point Chester, as Vice President of Engineering and part owner of the television station, took his retirement.

Chester was also an active member and Past President in the Mountain Top Area Lions Club and the Knights of Columbus, and was a member of St. Jude's Church in Mountain Top for 56 years.

His family was very important to him. He enjoyed family vacations to Wildwood, N.J., and holidays together. In his retirement, he and his wife enjoyed the winter months in Bonita Beach, Fla., and treating his grandchildren to trips to Disneyworld. Chester played golf and loved to continue his passion for technology with time spent on his computer, as well as helping friends and family determine the best new television to buy, or installing their computer systems for them. He always told his grandchildren that one day televisions would hang on the wall like a picture frame and that he would live to see it.

Chester was preceded in death by his parents as well as brothers, Stephen, Stanley, Joseph, Zigmund, Harry, Edmund, Frank, Adam, and sister, Anne Joyce.

Chester is survived by his loving wife, Dorothy; his son David and wife Carolyn, of Mountain Top; son Gerard, of Hamlin, and daughter, Martina, and husband Dr. Louis Mastrini of Hanover Township; his five grandchildren, Matthew, Kristy, Jennifer, Justin and Michael, and four great-grandchildren, Ava, Colby, Mason and Logan.

Funeral services will be held Wednesday at 9 a.m. from The Desiderio Funeral Home Inc., 436 S. Mountain Blvd., Mountain Top, with Mass of Christian Burial at 9:30 a.m. at St. Jude's RC Church, Mountain Top, with entombment to follow at Calvary Cemetery, Drums. Friends may call today from 5 to 8 p.m.

In lieu of flowers, Chester would prefer donations be made in his name to St. Jude's Church Building Fund. The family would like to thank Smith Healthcare and Hospice Community Care for all of their kindness and care.

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Published in Times Leader on Jan. 29, 2013
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