Services Saturday For Walt Harrell, WNOP-AM's Bunky Tadwell
In Cleves, Walter W. Harrell was also known as "Finn" during and after his service as a village councilman and Miami Township trustee.
To listeners of WNOP-AM, Newport's "Jazz Ark," which floated on the Ohio River in the 1970s, he was DJ Bunky Tadwell.
Harrell, 87, died Nov. 14. Services will be 1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 1, at the Dennis George Funeral Home, 44 S. Miami, Cleves. Visitation begins at noon.
Those who attend his life celebration will hear his jazz favorites by Miles Davis, Dave Brubeck, Andre Previn, Errol Garner, Frank Sinatra and Steve Allen. They were listed on a document his daughter found on his computer called, "If You're Lucky Enough To Pick Your Own Funeral Music." The funeral home soundtrack also will include an audio clip of Bunky Tadwell from WNOP-AM, which stopped broadcasting Dec. 31, 2000, after being purchased by Sacred Heart Catholic Radio.
Harrell – originally called "Young Finn," since his father, Walter J. Harrell also was "Finn" – loved jazz all his life, says his daughter Samantha Harrell Cardimon of suburban Philadelphia.
"He was born with it. I think it was baked in the cake. He loved three things – my mom, me and jazz," she says. Her mother, Mary "Judy" Harrell, died in 2011.
His "day job" was as a copywriter for several Cincinnati advertising agencies. Back in the late 1970s or early 1980s, Harrell's double life as a western Hamilton County township trustee and jazz jock was featured in an Enquirer suburban news story by John Erardi, before Erardi moved to the sports staff. I was Erardi's boss, and we were both jazz lovers who listened to WNOP-AM. We were thrilled to sneak a WNOP personality profile into the suburban news pages.
Some of Samantha's fondest memories are visiting her dad at the "Jazz Ark," three huge oil drums welded together which housed the radio station studio, offices and library. He worked at the station with Leo Underhill, Ray Scott, Bob Nave, Oscar Treadwell and others.
Where did he get his radio name?
"I don't know," she says. She guesses that Bunky was short for Kennebunkport, the Maine coastal town. "I think it just came out of my dad's fertile imagination."
In June, Harrell moved to live with his daughter and son-in-law in Trappe, PA. After a fall in September, he was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, and moved to a nursing center. "Dad was a free-range chicken, and didn't do well in captivity," she says.
In his final days, Samantha played the funeral music list from her phone for her dad. "It was something I really, really wanted to do for him. Jazz was his passion, his complete and utter love."
Rest in peace Bunky… and Walt… and Finn.