On January 27th, 2004, Fort Wayne and I, and many of his friends, have lost a great Clown Charles “Franklin” Willer. He is best known for many nicknames such as “Choo Choo Charlie”, “Chuckles the Juggling Clown” and a DJ on the radio known best as “Charlie Franklin.” His last job was on Fort Wayne’s Super Hits of the ’60s & ’70s radio station WLDE 101.7 FM. I have known Charlie since July of 1972, when he was on WPTH-FM Stereo 95.1 FM (now WAJI MAJIC 95.1 FM), and it is still owned by the original owners to this day. I first met him through my friend Patrick O’Brian, a.k.a. Phillip Knight and the Knightstime. Phil Knight had an overnight radio program called Knightstime on WPTH-FM Stereo 95.1 FM in which listeners were to call-in their song requests. Charlie was on before Phil, 7pm to Midnight and Phil’s son was on from 12 Midnight until 6:00am. Charlie had worked at a lot of radio stations throughout his career and had another radio friend originally from Fort Wayne, B. Eric Rhoads, who was the publisher of a radio management magazine called “Radio Inc.” Bruce Eric Rhoads, Charlie Willer and myself were put into a book called Sound in the Dark by Michael C. Keith. It’s about night DJ’s like myself and the forward was done by Larry King! Charlie had many, many friends who came to his memorial service. Charlie was the founder of the 3 Rivers Railroad Heritage Council (started to save trains, trolleys, and buses of the past). He also did magic tricks as Chuckles the Juggling Clown. Charlie and Bob Waugh founded “FM”. FM is part of Bob’s ham radio license. Charlie, Bob Waugh and Bob Sievers are all a part of a ham radio club. You can hear Bob Sievers live broadcast on ham radio, usually during the weekdays at 8:30am to 9:00am.
Charlie was a special friend. He could relate to and protect his friends, no matter what level, class or type you were in. Bob Waugh and I were often at his production studio where he made TV commercials and other stuff, like putting old 78’s on CD’s to clean them up. People would come in and ask him for his help to preserve a record or tape.
Charlie was always involved in something or some group, such as, Sing out Fort Wayne Choir and Up With People, a late 60s and early 70s singing group. The group included Fort Wayne’s own actress Glen Close. Charlie once showed me the album cover in his studio with he and Glen Close’s picture on it.
Charlie was and will always be special in everyone’s eyes, including mine. After my stroke April 8th 1994, he taught me how to run a computer. Charlie will be sorely missed. He was our and my guardian angel.
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