13 at 65: Piece of history honors Elmer

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - A new addition to the WIBW-TV studio landscape honors our history --- and a man who was part of the WIBW story for 58 years.

Elmer Gunderson started at WIBW-TV in 1955, two years after the station went on the air. He spent most of his years as chief engineer, remaining on the job until his passing in May 2013.

WIBW's current operations director Mike Turner started at the station as an intern in 1985, working nearly 30 years with the man many people knew as "Gunner."

"The biggest influence (on me) without a doubt was Elmer Gunderson," Turner said.

Turner said Elmer's expertise was well-known, especially when it came to the early transmitters.

"He was the only one that could work on them," Turner said. "Until later years, he was the man - if there was a problem, he was the only solution."

When WIBW launched its antenna replacement project in spring, Turner and current WIBW engineer Shane McMurdo brainstormed how best to preserve that piece of history, and came up with a way to use it to pay tribute to Elmer. Crews cut it down to an eight-foot section, whch is now mounted outside the WIBW studio, with a light to top it off.

"He was more than just the guy that fixed stuff. He was like the father figure, or friend or whatever you want to say, but he was there all the time so he meant something different to everybody that knew him," Turner said. "It’s not only the people that people see at home. There’s people scattered all over that do all different kinds of jobs and I think they’re all touched by Elmer."

As for what Elmer might think of the display?

"Elmer would have hated this. He would never have wanted us to do this," Turner said. "I think anybody that knew Elmer knew that he was never wanting to be in the limelight, never wanted to be out in front of the camera, always the guy behind the scenes making sure everything work and the fact that we did this, I’m sure doesn’t make him extremely happy but it’s appropriate."

Elmer was inducted into the Kansas Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame.