Loved gadgets, never hired a repairperson [Orlando Sentinel]
(Orlando Sentinel (FL) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Jan. 12--As a boy in the 1930s, Buzz Showalter noticed his father had a radio that didn't work.
Interested in the innards of all things, Showalter took apart the device, figured out what was wrong and put it back together. Fixing that radio sparked a lifelong interest in technology and repairing just about anything -- including televisions, vacuum cleaners, garbage disposals, toilets and pool pumps.
"He was always tinkering around with something," said his sister-in-law Jo Ehredt of Virginia."He wasn't a couch potato, that's for sure."
And hiring a handyman to look at a dripping faucet or a busted washing machines was out of the question, said Etta Showalter, his wife of 69 years. He had so many tools in his workshop and so much confidence in his abilities, there wasn't a need for a repairperson.
"I don't think that there was anything he couldn't fix," she said.
Showalter, of Orlando, died Monday from complications of a blood infection. He was 94.
A Pennsylvania native, Showalter grew up in Williamsburg and moved to Altoona in junior high. He married in 1943 and he and his wife went on to have two daughters.
By the 1940s, the family settled in Baltimore where Showalter began a 44-year career with the Glen L. Martin Company, which today is Lockheed Martin. With no college degree, Showalter "worked his way up the ladder" at the company, his daughter said, learning on his own about new technologies.
In 1957, the company expanded to Orlando and promoted Showalter to Director of Manufacturing. Over the years, he'd oversee the production of several large military projects, including the Lacrosse and Pershing missiles.
He later founded the Retiree's Association of Martin-Marietta, a club that continues to hold get-togethers and charity events for former employees of the defense contractor. The organization, which began with 18 members now has more than 1,500 under the name REALM -- the Retired Employees Association of Lockheed Martin.
Volunteering and mentoring meant a lot to Showalter, who served on so many boards that his daughter Susan Arnold of Winter Park couldn't remember them all. He worked with the United Cerebral Palsy Association, Junior Achievement and taught leadership classes through Orange County Public Schools.
In his free time, Showalter's fascination with gadgets led him to play a key role in the Orlando amateur radio community. Before the Internet and cell phones, Showalter -- under the handle W4UJL -- communicated with other HAM radio operators from around the world and in Central Florida.
And to do so, the family's home south of downtown Orlando needed an antenna that Arnold described as "huge" and "monstrous." It was so large, neighbors could see it from blocks away.
As technologies evolved over time, Showalter continued to want the latest and greatest electronics. He owned video cameras, VCRs, DVD players, digital televisions and computers.
Arnold said buying birthday presents for her dad was difficult because he didn't have the patience to wait for the newest gadget, and would buy them himself.
But on his 94th birthday in November she bought him an iPhone -- a gadget he didn't yet own. And Showalter took to it quickly, learning how to text within days.
"He didn't want to be left behind," Arnold said.
Besides his daughter and wife, Showalter is survived by three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Carey-Hand Funeral Home Curry Ford handled the arrangements.
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