Longtime Public Radio Host and Advocate, Leah Tourkow, Dies at 91

Jun 19, 2014

Leah Tourkow spun jazz records for more than 60 years in Fort Wayne.
Credit Courtesy / WBOI Archives

Friends, family and fans from around the community are remembering a longtime radio veteran and a key member of the NIPR family, Leah Tourkow, who died this week at the age of 91.

Leah Tourkow spent more than 60 years on the airwaves, and spent much of that time as an ardent supporter and occasional savior of public radio in Fort Wayne.

She got her start as an in-house announcer at a Fort Wayne VA medical facility, but eventually found her way to the station at Indiana University - Purdue University Fort Wayne. There – at what was then WIPU-FM – Tourkow shared her love of jazz with Fort Wayne listeners.

Tourkow’s passion for public broadcasting turned into activism when, after budget cuts threatened to shut WIPU down, she helped lead a group of supporters that raised money to save the station.

“The Friends of WIPU” incorporated as a new organization and bought the station that would eventually become WBNI-FM.

But listeners probably know her best for her time as the host of the popular public radio music shows “Jazz Classics” and “Night Flight.”

WBOI’s Julia Meek knew Tourkow throughout much of her public radio career, and says her passion for community and great music were without end.

“What she shared especially through music – both on and off the radio – touched so many people’s hearts,” Meek said. “She was all about the jazz, and all about local jazz musicians.”

Community advocate, radio host, and friend of public radio Leah Tourkow died Monday at the age of 91.