Bill Raffel, a music host on WNED 94.5FM and a communications professor at Buffalo State, died Monday (October 13, 2014) after a lengthy illness. He was 47.
Raffel’s broadcast career in Buffalo began in the early 1990s when he joined the old WEBR 970AM as a reporter. After the station changed to WNED-AM, he continued in a part-time role as a reporter and anchor while pursuing his law degree at the University at Buffalo.
In 1994, Raffel joined WBFO 88.7FM where he was responsible for reporting on stories from the University at Buffalo. He created a 90-second feature called “UBeat” that aired throughout the broadcast day. Raffel also assisted in the WBFO newsroom as a fill-in reporter and anchor.
After earning his law degree in 1996, Raffel obtained a PhD in communications from the University at Buffalo in 2001. He joined the communication’s department at Buffalo State where he served as an associate professor until his death. His teaching and research interests included broadcast journalism, media law, social applications of the Internet, and international studies. A number of his former students who now work in broadcasting are sharing remembrances on social media of the impact he had on their careers.
In 2006, Raffel contributed a chapter to an academic book, Sports Talk Radio in America: Its Context and Culture by providing a study and analysis of the sports-talk radio competition in Buffalo, a mid-sized market.
Raffel continued in a part-time capacity at WBFO, producing a weekly classical music feature, “Music Notes,” and a weekend program, “Celtic Kaleidoscope,” that aired as part of the popular NPR music program, “The Thistle and Shamrock.” Raffel also produced holiday programs for WBFO, taping live concerts staged by the American Legion Band of the Tonawandas and the Buffalo Choral Arts Society for later airplay, as well as the yearly “Nine Lessons and Carols” from the St. Paul’s Cathedral in downtown Buffalo. On Memorial Day and July 4th, Raffel produced concerts of patriotic music, again by the American Legion Band. For several years, Raffel shared his wit and humor each April Fool’s Day with a special feature on WBFO. One of his most memorable was in 2002, when the city was hosting a public art project featuring brightly painted Buffalo sculptures. He produced a faux news report that aired on April 1st about "giant butter lambs" that were put up around the city in celebration of Easter and Dyngus Day.
In 2009, Raffel left WBFO to become a classical music host on WNED-FM. He hosted the “Saturday Rounds,” from 10am to 1:30pm on Saturdays. He also continued to produce the American Legion Band concerts for Classical 94.5.
Raffel was an eclectic musician who played the tin whistle and Celtic harp and performed Celtic music with the Hobson’s Choice trio.
Prior to coming to Buffalo, Raffel was news director of WNCE-TV in Glens Falls, NY, where he co-anchored the news with Lydia Kulbida. Interestingly, the two would work together again at WBFO in 1994-95.
Raffel earned a BA in communications from Ithaca College.
“He was a talented professor, journalist and broadcaster,” wrote WBFO News Director Brian Meyer on Facebook. “(Bill) has left a lasting mark on many arenas in Western New York.”
Raffel is survived by his wife Eloisa, and his mother, Elizabeth.
A memorial service will be held Saturday, November 1, 2pm, at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, 1080 Main Street, Buffalo.