Stefan Paul Ponek Jr.
September 14, 1939 - October 15, 2001
Stefan Ponek was born in Middlebury, Vermont to Stefan and Elizabeth Ponek, followed by his sister Susan twelve years later.
Stefan was fascinated with radio and was broadcasting stacks of his grandmother's 78's out of her attic through a homemade transmitter by the time he was 13. During high school, Stefan operated a pirate radio station that he built and ran from his barn until an FCC representative arrived to close him down.
But radio was in his blood.
At the age of 16, Stefan escaped the small town of Bellows Falls, Vermont to wash dishes and work part time at a local radio station in Henrietta, Oklahoma.
He served in the Air Force from 1957 to 1960, stationed in Biloxi, Mississippi. He also operated a radio station at a base in Pagwar, Ontario.
In 1961 he attended the Leland Powers School in Boston and in 1962 he moved to San Jose to work with Philco, repairing military radar units at the Air Force base at Mt. Almaden.
While newly married, Stefan attended college in Santa Barbara and worked at KMUZ in 1965. He was then hired by classical KSFR in San Francisco in 1967--the same year his son Seth was born. KSFR became KSAN under new management in 1968 and instituted a free-form progressive format, which has been later hailed as the nation's best.
Stefan won the Billboard Magazine "FM Disc Jockey of the Year" award in 1971 while at KSAN.
"When you have the best radio gig, making lots of money, and it still doesn't turn you on, where do you go?" Stefan asked. One place he found was the Delancey Street Foundation. Stefan was involved for several years, from 1971 to 1978.
His quest led him to the formation of Ponek-Fisher Associates, with friend Steve Fisher and together they produced many radio syndicated specials and classic interviews with "rock & roll greats." Stefan did this while running ragged doing full shifts on KSFO, a routine that led to a heart attack at age 38.
Through divorce, remarriage, the birth of his daughter, Kristin, and new radio jobs, Stefan marched on. He signed on with K101 in 1974, followed by KGO, KSFO, KMPX, KYUU, KYA, Magic 61 . . . are there any left?
Antique radio restoration became one of Stefan's hobbies. He got his general contractor's license and explored careers outside radio after frustrations with the 'business' of radio. But radio remained important to Stefan and he shifted into more management with a desire to "buck" the trends that he had experienced as a DJ.
He became General Manager of KNBA in Vallejo and remarried in 1993. Then he took the job of GM at KNSN in Chico.
1996 brought further matters of the heart. Stefan survived a quadruple bypass operation, then a divorce and a move to Pacifica.
For several years, Stefan worked with students at San Francisco City College as a Senior Broadcast Technician, bringing inspiration to the department.
All who knew him agree that Stefan had comfort and peace his last years. He resolved many of his past relationships and had deep joy and pride for his children and grandchildren. He had a loving relationship with his dear Margaret, which brought him much contentment.
His voice was a comfort to many. His quick wit and warm style resonated on the airwaves and in the hearts of those who knew him. They loved his boyish charm, his knowing smile, his playfulness . . . his deep love and concern for people. And they will always remember his signoff, "This is Stefan Ponek signing off . . . be good to one another."