August 20, 2012
John E. Walson Jr., president and CEO of pioneering Service Electric Cable TV & Communication, died Sunday afternoon after a short battle with cancer. He was 63.
He was the eldest son of Service Electric founder John Walson Sr., who developed the company in 1948 as the nation's first community antenna television system, later known as cable television.
Walson had been working until a few weeks ago, said Andrew Himmelwright, general manager of Service Electric Cable TV-2. Walson died at his home in South Whitehall Township, surrounded by his family.
"He put his employees first," said Himmelwright, who worked under Walson's supervision. "He always put us first. He was my boss."
Walson was known in the community as a philanthropist who supported a variety of nonprofit organizations, particularly Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Lehigh Valley. He was also an avid golfer and had owned the former Lehigh Valley ValleyDawgs basketball team, which was a member of the independent United States Basketball League.
Information about funeral services is expected on Monday.
Himmelwright said Walson will be sorely missed and the news has shaken employees. But his death will not change the direction of the company, which in recent years has moved toward the optimization of high-definition technology.
Himmelwright said Walson's son, John M. Walson, is already an integral part of the operations and is expected to take over the leadership role.
"John was our rock," Himmelwright said, "but he really instilled his spirit, passion and compassion in his son. His son works side by his dad every day."
Walson had been in the corporation for more than 40 years. He took over the business shortly after his father's death in 1993. But before that, he had worked himself up the company ranks, spending time in field operations, including 10 years as a head-end technician. He also worked six years as a chief engineer for the company's TV studio, according to a biography published on the company's website.
Himmelwright said Walson's goal for the company was "always to have the best, most technologically advanced cable system" in the area.
Based in Bethlehem, Service Electric is the largest family-owned cable company in the country. The company is made up of three subsidiaries, each independently operated.
Walson's brother, Edward Walson, runs Service Electric Co., which serves about 70,000 subscribers in Schuylkill County, Wilkes-Barre and northern New Jersey. Rosalie Walter and her husband, Hoyt, operate Service Electric Cablevision, which serves about 95,000 subscribers in the Kutztown, Sunbury and Hazleton areas.
Walson Jr. owned the biggest of the three subsidiaries with about 275 employees and 120,000 subscribers in the greater Lehigh Valley. He was one of the people responsible for diversifying the company, delving not only into cable television, but also telephone services and Internet as part of the same package.
"He always had a smile," Himmelwright said. Allentown Morning Call
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