In Memoriam | Edward Bear: 1938-2023

“A brother from another mother.” These five words describe the relationship that I was blessed to share with Edward Bear for the past 48 years.

Edward Bear passed away the morning of February 10, 2023, leaving a legacy unmatched by many of us. He leaves behind a loving and wonderful wife, Lori Fuller, and countless friends and associates that he positively impacted throughout his life.

Edward Bear, whose given name was Stephen Hirsch, was born on May 30, 1938, in Manhattan and was raised in Brooklyn. He graduated from James Madison High School, the same public high school that the likes of Ruth Bader Ginsberg (1950), Carole King (1958), Bernie Sanders (1959), Chuck Schumer (1967), and six Nobel laureates attended.

He came to the name “Bear” in his mid-teens, when he said he discovered his inner self, or his spirit, to be that of a bear. Bear, a man of the arts from his youth, was reticent to share his writings until he spent a summer in Provincetown on Cape Cod with a couple who were aspiring writers, all doing summer work in local restaurants. These friends surprised him one day and told him, “We know who you are, and you’re Edward Bear!” Bear didn’t realize it at the time, but they were naming him for Winnie the Pooh. His driver’s license and passport both carried his full name as: “Stephen Edward Bear Hirsch.”

Bear found himself in San Francisco at a critical and transformative time in the 1960s. His prior experience and passion for radio evolved into a position as the mid-day deejay at KMPX. Through some twists and turns, Bear became the all-night deejay at KSAN, the forerunner to what was later called progressive rock radio in the United States, and on May 21, 1968, he began broadcasting a “Freeform” radio on May 21, 1968, the same open and free format that he and the other deejays had been doing at KMPX.

In 1973 a former assistant of his at KSAN, Laurie Cobb, became music director of a new freeform radio station, KTYD-FM, that was about to go on the air in Santa Barbara. Cobb invited Bear to be on the air for the debut of KYTD which, unknowingly at the time, evolved into a major turning point in Bear’s life. That first week turned into additional invitations to be a guest deejay for another week at Christmas, and again for a week that included Valentine’s Day.

What followed was a full-time offer to remain at KTYD to do the shift of his choice. Bear moved to Santa Barbara in March 1974 and chose the afternoon drive shift, 2 to 6 p.m. Soon thereafter, Bear became one of the most recognizable voices in the Santa Barbara tri-counties area. His mellifluous voice was heard over the airwaves on KTYD from 1973 to 1978, and on KDB from 1980 to 2002.

In early 1979, Bear was offered the position of programming, writing, and announcing an internationally syndicated three-hour weekly program called Jazz Album Concert. It was recorded in Los Angeles and was distributed to 143 radio stations nationwide and on 23 national broadcasting systems worldwide, as well as on Armed Forces Radio. It was the largest jazz program in the world at the time. In reminiscing, Bear would say that his involvement with Jazz Album Concert was one of the higher points in his life.

Edward Bear & Friends (EB&F) was formed in 1980. The mission was to produce excellent and memorable radio and TV ads for progressive and environmentally aware candidates and issues in Santa Barbara, as well as serving other quality clients. Bear would recall that during the 25 years that EB&F produced electronic media for 45 different political campaigns, his candidates and issues won 37 times. Bear closed his business in 2005 and lived quietly with his wife, Lori, on the Santa Barbara Riviera, working on issues of peace, justice, and the environment.

Bear had a tremendous impact on my life and the lives of so many others. In a rather fortuitous meeting at the Isla Vista Open Door Medical Clinic in 1974, where I was working as a receptionist, he stopped in to have something looked at. He registered at the front desk as Stephen Hirsch. Being sensitive to patient confidentiality, I leaned forward and quietly mentioned that he sounded just like one of my favorite announcers at KTYD, Edward Bear. He nodded that he was indeed one and the same.

Without any hesitation I told him that I felt that he was one of the best, if not the very best, announcer I had ever heard and that I wanted to learn the craft of radio from him. My assertiveness was appreciated, and I found myself sitting in the corner of the KTYD on-air booth two weeks later, a seat that had been occupied by many others in the past, including the world-famous photographer Annie Leibovitz when Bear was at KSAN. What blossomed was a deep friendship that lasted close to 50 years.

Bear was a passionate man, passionate about music and his ability to bring that music to the public in a creative and thoughtful manner. He had a voice that was calming, distinctive, and melodious; he felt like a friend on the other side of the speaker. He was as comfortable speaking on the subject of rock and roll as he was on the topic of classical music. He spoke with color and authority whether it was in describing music or photography or causes for the public good.

He also loved to host gatherings that brought people together. He left his enduring mark through his creativity, his passion, and his love for the people in his life and for the planet. His involvement in significant social causes demonstrated his love for keeping Santa Barbara the magnificent jewel it is on the California coast. That love for Santa Barbara was evident in his extensive support of the community. Edward was a professional advisor to KCSB’s campus radio station at UC Santa Barbara; he was on the Board of Directors at the Environmental Defense Center; a founding member of SBCAN, the Santa Barbara County Action Network; and he consistently produced public service announcements for the Isla Vista Open Door Medical Clinic, the Visiting Nurse Association, and the YMCA, to name a few of his commitments to the city.

Bear is survived by his wife, Lori; six nieces; five nephews; and a grand-nephew and grand-niece who he said he felt were more like his “grandkids” and often referred to as “his kids.” He is survived by dear friends who considered him to be family.

He is also survived by those people whose lives he so positively affected over the airwaves at 4 a.m. in San Francisco or 4 p.m. in Santa Barbara. His uncanny ability to program music will remain in the memories of those San Franciscans and Santa Barbarans who had the joy to listen to him and his uncanny ability to program incredibly special content for a range of appreciative audiences. He will be deeply missed.

Contributions in memory of Edward Bear can be made to the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County and the City of Santa Barbara Library.


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