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Cordell Loken: Radio Career a Mission of Love

Posted by Dave Sarkies on Feb 27, 2014 9:13:39 AM

Cordell "Cork" LokenFollowing a visit last month by Telos’ Broadcast Audio Fanatics, veteran radio engineer Cordell Loken of KBNJ in Corpus Christi, TX sent us a note expressing how impressed he was with the meeting.

While we always enjoy hearing this type of feedback, once we got to know Cork and learned his story, we were as impressed with him as he was with us!

Dynamite Wire Blasts Rural Boy’s Curiosity into Career in Radio and Electronics

As a boy, Cordell – or “Cork” – became interested in radio and began tinkering with electronics. Cork would visit the local radio and TV repair shop and buy old radios in need of batteries or spare parts for just 50 cents, then take them apart and put them back together. Working with wire from motors, generators, old telephone parts, and a Model T spark coil, Cork began to set up a private phone line to a neighbor girl’s farm house a mile away, but lack of parental encouragement ‘grounded’ the project.

His curiosity even led Cork to collect dynamite wire from a workman at local blast site, which he used to make an electric motor. Who knew this penchant for tinkering in the small farming community of Dell Rapids, South Dakota would lead to a career in radio that would span the globe? As Cork puts it, “Dynamite wire blasted me into my life-long romance with electricity!”

Cork studied electronics at LeTourneau University in Longview, TX, and after graduation and a stint in the Army, became a missionary radio engineer with SIM, serving for over 20 years at ELWA in Monrovia, Liberia. While there, Cork pursued an interest in amateur radio, with his personal station situated just 99 feet from the ocean. It was the only radioteletype setup in all of Liberia, according to Cork, and with a 60' tower with a three-element beam antenna, would easily reach the U.S. and Brazil. “The ocean was like a liquid copper path connecting us!,” Cork beams. “Definitely what hams call ‘Rare DX.’”

Over time, work was required elsewhere, and other spots became home, including Ivory Coast, where Cork was called upon to help put a radio station on the air – though this stop first necessitated a trip to Switzerland to learn French. Through the years, other missionary-related work has included stops in Malawi, Argentina and Mexico. That’s quite an international itinerary!

Five Decades in Radio and still Climbing Towers

Cork and his wife of 47 years have served as missionaries for much of their married lives, working in Christian radio for World Radio Network in locales across the U.S. as well, including Missouri, Indiana, and now Texas. The Lokens came to the Lone Star State last year, where Cork first helped build a new Christian radio station in Del Rio – KVFE – and where he now volunteers as Chief Engineer at KBNJ.

KBNJAnd though he may not climb to the heights he used to, Cork still climbs the towers now and then too! No surprise. This is a man who learned to downhill ski in Switzerland at the age of 53, and who has body-surfed and snorkeled in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Liberia.

It’s been quite a career, but with more than 50 years in radio behind him, it’s clear Cork isn’t slowing down anytime soon!

Read more about Cork’s amazing career!

Topics: Radio


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