One of public radio's first really big stars, a graduate of MIT turned car mechanic, Tom Magliozzi of Car Talk died today of complications from Alzheimer's disease. He was 77 years old.
While Tom and his younger brother Ray stopped doing new episodes of their famous car repair show two years ago, best of episodes still air on KUAZ 89.1 on Saturdays at 10 a.m. and Sundays at 5 p.m.
After getting out of college, Tom Magliozzi went to work as an engineer. One day he had a kind of epiphany, he told graduates when he and Ray gave the 1999 commencement address at their alma mater.
He was on his way to work when he had a near-fatal accident with a tractor-trailer. He pulled off the road and decided to do something different with his life.
"I quit my job," he said. "I became a bum. I spent two years sitting in Harvard Square drinking coffee. I invented the concept of the do-it-yourself auto repair shop, and I met my lovely wife."
Well, he wasn't exactly a bum; he worked as a consultant and college professor, eventually getting a doctoral degree in marketing. And Tom and Ray Magliozzi did open that do-it-yourself repair shop in the early '70s. They called it Hackers Heaven. Later they opened a more traditional car repair shop called the Good News Garage.
They got into radio by accident when someone from the local public radio station, WBUR, was putting together a panel of car mechanics for a talk show.
"They called Ray, and Ray thought it was a dumb idea, so he said, 'I'll send my brother' and Tom thought, 'Great, I'll get out of breaking my knuckles for a couple of hours.' And he went over and he was the only one who showed up," Berman says.