Veteran broadcaster Frank Wappat will be remembered as a legend of the airwaves by his fellow BBC colleagues following his death yesterday.
The radio presenter passed away at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle from heart failure on Monday morning, his 84th birthday.
He worked for BBC Newcastle for 40 years and editor Andrew Robson described him as being central to the station’s popularity.
In a tribute to the star, he said: “Frank was a legend on BBC Newcastle. I didn’t get the chance to work with him for too long but his name was synonymous with this radio station for decades.
“Frank retired due to ill health four years ago. Our thoughts are with his wife and family and friends at this difficult time”. The presenter retired in October 2010 due to ill health after suffering from a stroke which left him with condition Aphasia.
He was born in Hebburn, South Tyneside, and started his career on the pirate station Radio 390 on the Thames Estuary before moving back to Tyneside in 1970.
He went on to become its longest-serving presenter drawing in thousands of followers.
Radio listeners will know him best for his work producing and presenting two BBC Newcastle shows – Sunday morning’s Inspirational Show from 6am to 7.30am and the award-winning Frank Wappat Music show from 7pm to 10pm.
Before he turned to broadcasting however, he was a Methodist lay preacher.
He quickly fell foul of the church authorities whom, he claims, did not like his “religion can be enjoyable!” approach. In the 1960s he formed his own alternative congregation and worshippers flocked first to his Mission in Byker, Newcastle, and then to the redundant C of E church he occupied in North Shields.
Meanwhile, his Thirties Club and Gospel Hour programmes attracted large audiences and he would often lead the annual Christmas sing-a-longs in Newcastle’s Eldon Square with crowds of shoppers.
He won two Sony Radio Academy Awards during his career, one for his Master Joe Peterson programme and in 2000 he won his second for investigative journalism for his work unearthing the truth about the death of 1940s singer Chick Henderson.
His Nostalgia show continued on BBC Radio Newcastle and BBC Radio York until August 2010.
He lived in Blyth with his wife Susan.