In Memoriam:  Charlie Willer








Dearest Members of IJBFC,

Long time fan club member, Charlie Willer, has lost his battle to Cancer. He died at his home on Tuesday morning at 6 a.m. He was the "sound man" and helped produce the Waukegan Statue Celebration CD which was a Waukegan fund raiser for the Jack Benny Statue in Waukegan. I've attached photos of Charlie. One with the Waukegan gang involved in the Statue Celebration and another that is a closer view of Charlie. I don't have the names, phone numbers, or addresses of the Waukegan individuals who worked with Charlie on this project and I want to get word to them about Charlie's passing. I know they would want to be informed.  Can you help me get word to these individuals? I have been a friend of Charlie's for nearly 30 years. Charlie's wife Kate is left with medical bills that can not be covered with insurance. Charlie has left behind two very beautiful daughters. A California magazine publisher friend of Charlie's (B. Eric Rhoads) has been working with the local Fort Wayne, Indiana media and a local bank to set up a trust fund for Charlie's daughters. These are very hard times for Charlie's family. Charlie has been cremated and there are plans in the work for a memorial service for Charlie some time in the near future. Condolences can be sent to Charlie's wife Kate, daughters Katrina and Elizabeth at their home:

Kate Willer, 5849 Goshen Rd., Fort Wayne, Indiana 46818

Thank you,

Vickie Gipson Bridegam, 1110 S. State St., Kendallville, Indiana 46755


On a more personal note, I had known Charlie since I moved to Fort Wayne in the mid-1980s and worked in radio.  He had his own recording studio, where I did my first resume tape.  Charlie was well-known in the area as Chuckles the Clown, as well as for his recording talents.  The first 100 tapes or so in the IJBFC audio library were purchased from him as blanks, and used to copy shows from member collections.  Charlie had an intense love for many personal interests, and was even building his own railroad around his property ("Choo Choo Charlie").  It was unusual to have to make a railroad crossing in someone's driveway!  He also called when he got copies of The Big Broadcast, Tune in Yesterday, and other OTR books, and helped me add them to my library.

When we were going to do the Waukegan recreation and needed a sound effects man, I knew that Charlie was the one to call.  He worked with Ray Erlenborn to figure out how to do sounds like a ship creaking and wind in the sails, and drove all the way from Fort Wayne to Waukegan with a sound effects door lashed to his roof!  Whatever Charlie took on, he did it to the fullest.

I will miss him very much, as a fan club member, a colleague, and a personal friend.


Charlie in his own words about the Waukegan CD

Charles Franklin Willer, 49, died at home on the morning of January 27, 2004. He is survived by his wife, Kate and two daughters, Elizabeth and Katrina. Other survivors include his parents, Paul & Dorothy Willer, brother, Lynn Willer of Sodus, MI and a sister Dianne Willer-Sly of Lake Elmo, MN.

He founded his own audio production company, Audio Architect and performed to many as Chuckles the Juggling Clown. He appeared as radio personality, Charlie Franklin or Choo Choo Charlie, over the airwaves since 1968 throughout the area, most recently with WLDE, Oldies 101.7. He played piano & composed his own original music.

A train enthusiast, he did extensive historic research & slide presentations on area & regional steam trains, interurbans & trolleys. He served as promotions director for the Little River Railroad and was instrumental in establishing the Three Rivers Railroad Heritage Council, Inc.

His interest in juggling led to co-founding Jugglers Anonymous, the local juggling club and he was known as WB9ULN, ham radio operator, member of Allen County/Amateur Radio Technical Society. Charles was also a member of the Unitarian-Universalist Congregation of FortWayne.

Memorial service will be held Sunday, February 1, 2004 at12:30 p.m. at the Unitarian-Universalist Congregation, 5310 Old Mill Road, FortWayne.

Memorials to the family or trust fund for his daughters.

Bob Waugh