Bernard E. Waterman passed away at his home on Sanibel Island Sunday afternoon, November 12. Edith, his wife of 71 years, and dear friends were by his side.
Bernie was born in 1921 in Strasburg, Virginia, the son of the late Isabelle Burke and Harry H. Waterman. Bernie grew up in the Shenandoah Valley with his brother Harry and sisters Pat and Millie who have preceded him in death. After graduating from John Handley High School, Bernie enlisted in the Navy. He served in World War II, two years in the Atlantic and two in the Pacific. While his ship was in dry dock in Mobile, AL, a beautiful young lady caught his eye. Bernie never wasted time. He courted Edith and when back at sea wrote her letters daily until the war ended. They married in Mobile on April 24, 1946.
Even though Bernie was offered a promotion as an officer decommissioning ships, he decided he would attend the University of Missouri and received his journalism degree in 1949. Bernie was appointed a John Jewell Scholar. Despite being offered a teaching position, Bernie and Edith moved to Springfield, IL where Bernie worked as a sports editor for a major Illinois newspaper, served as news and special events director at an Illinois TV station and was president of the Midwest Sports Network. He also served as sports announcer for the National Network Shows.
Bernie’s entrepreneurial spirit was strong and the desire to own his own company drew him to Worcester, MA. Bernie and Edith purchased radio station WAAB in July 1956 and built WAAB-FM in July 1961. Bernie served as Director of Broadcast Executives Club of Massachusetts. In 1965, they expanded again and purchased KTSA in San Antonio, Texas and then built KTFM an FM radio station. Nearly a decade later, it was time to expand again. In 1977, Bernie and Edith purchased WBBH-TV in Fort Myers, FL. After major renovations and building a new tower in a new location, Bernie and Edith looked for a reason to spend some time in Virginia near Bernie’s childhood home. WVIR-TV in Charlottesville became part of the Waterman family in 1986. Bernie had a pioneering spirit and continually liked to break new ground. In 1994, Waterman Broadcasting entered into a time brokerage agreement with Ellis Communications and continues to conduct the day to day operations of WZVN-TV.
Bernie also developed a passion for medicine and philanthropy. The Watermans have supported groundbreaking medical research at the Mayo Clinic for decades, forming the Bernard and Edith Waterman Center for Cancer Genetics in 2004, providing leadership support for Individualized Medicine in 2014 and as Mayo Clinic Philanthropic Partners in 2017.
Bernie and Edith spent their summers from the 1970’s to 2013 in their Osterville home on Cape Cod. They have been Sanibel, FL residents since the early 1990’s.
Funeral services are scheduled for 10am Friday, November 17, at Sanibel Community Church. Burial will be in Winchester, VA.
Arrangements are being handled by Harvey Engelhardt Funeral Services in Fort Myers and by Omps Funeral Home in Winchester, VA.
Flowers may be sent to Sanibel Community Church or donations made to the Alvin A. Dubin Alzheimer’s Resource Center in Fort Myers, Sanibel Community Church or the Mayo Clinic.