Two public broadcasters active in southern California during the 1960s and 1970s, James Lee Mathes and Fred Burgess, retired to Kansas together in the 1980s. They died within seven months in 2007.
James Lee Mathes, 73, a pioneer in public TV at KCET and the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, died March 27  in his home state, Kansas. He had pancreatic cancer.
Mathes worked on such KCET projects as Carl Sagan’s Cosmos series and an eight-nation simulcast, as well as fundraising and general administration.
Before joining KCET in the late 1960s, Mathes produced and directed educational TV programs at USC. After retiring from broadcasting in 1984, he established Prairie Oak Farms on his family’s homestead west of Wichita, adding orchid greenhouses and an aviary and creating a tourist destination.
Mathes is survived by his partner of almost 30 years, Fred R. Burgess, a former g.m. of KVCR-TV/FM in San Bernardino, and by many friends. A memorial celebration was held April 3 in Pratt, Kan.
Mathes and Burgess “watched public broadcasting grow from that little band of stations known as NET . . . to the mainstay it is today in the lives of millions . . .” Burgess said.
Fred R. Burgess, 64, retired g.m. of KVCR-FM/TV in San Bernardino, Calif., died Oct. 6  in a hospice in Pratt, Kan. He had been fighting cancer, according to the San Bernardino County Sun.
Burgess began volunteering at the station in 1963, before graduating from college, and later joined the staff, writing successful grant proposals and rising to p.d. and g.m. In later years he worked for the station’s licensee, San Bernardino Community College District, as its director of development.
His longtime partner, James L. Mathes, also worked in public broadcasting, as a producer and executive at KCET in Los Angeles.
In the early 1980s, after retiring from broadcasting, they moved to Mathes’s family homestead west of Wichita, Kan. They established a greenhouse for orchids and an aviary and opened a restaurant, Prairie Oak Farms. Burgess was the chef.
In March, Burgess’s cancer was diagnosed, the Sun reported, and Mathes died of pancreatic cancer (Current, April 23, above). In May, a tornado destroyed the farm.
A memorial service is set for Oct. 20 at the Palace Theater in Kinsley, Kan., and a final service for Oct. 27 in Inman, Kan.
Copyright 2007 American University