Dr. Ted Castele
TV's first News Doctor
made over a billion house calls
Robert Young wasn't a doctor - he just played one (Marcus Welby) on TV. Theodore J. Castele on the other hand, not only appeared as a Doctor on television - he really is one. Here is his story.
Ted was born in the hills of Western Pennsylvania, on February 1, 1928. It was in his home town of New Castle that this only child, was raised and went to High School.
As a child, Ted was very active in the Boy Scouts, earning the Eagle Scout Award, the highest honor given in the Scouts. In High School, he was part of a radio club - radio not being as common as it is today. Most of the time he was growing up, New Castle did not have their own station. Ted and the other club members met, wrote and got to go on the air "maybe twice, if that."
Both of Ted's parents were born in this country. His mother was the daughter of Polish immigrants and grew up in West Virginia. His father was the son of Italian immigrants, and he grew up in Pennsylvania. Both of his parents were accountants. "I had simply wonderful parents. Just wonderful." His father was a Marine, and the war was on while Ted was growing up. His mother was in the Marine Auxiliary and very active in the Red Cross.
Dr. Ted Castele and his mother
In January 1946, he went into the Navy, although he had actually enlisted prior to that and tried to go in earlier. Rules were rules and he had to wait for his 18th birthday. Ted's father was a Marine, but since most of Ted's class was joining the Navy, he decided to do so as well. "We were gonna fight the bad guys"
Ted Castele (right) in Navy with shipmate
Although the war was technically still on when Ted went in, the "fighting part was over" so Ted spent the next two years in what was known as "The Kid Brother Navy".
He was mainly stationed in Naval Academies after completing his boot camp in Williamsburg, Virginia. He was stationed at the Great Lakes Naval Academy in Illinois and then in Corpus Christi, Texas. His final transfer, before being discharged from Norfolk was a trip to Trinidad in the British West Indies.
Ted Castele in college
Most of his work was in the various electronic schools. His rank was Aviation Electronics Tech 2nd Class.
When he got out of the Navy, Ted enrolled in Western Reserve University, in Cleveland. His best friend, who had not been able to go into the service, had gone to John Carroll and recommended both Cleveland and Western Reserve to Ted.
College man Ted Castele with roomates
Western Reserve had the programs he wanted so it was an easy decision for him. He graduated in 1951 from Adelbert College of Western Reserve University with a Bachelor of Science degree.
On October 20 of that same year, Ted married Jean Willse of Lakewood. Ted was a member of the very prestigious Phi Gamma Delta and he met Jean at a Fraternity Party.
Ted Castele and Jean Willse wedding in 1951
Fresh out of school and newly married, Ted went to work for a subsidiary of Union Carbide, The KMET Company and then went back to school to continue his studies.
After 2 years at KMET he moved on to what he called "The greatest company in the world", the Victoreen Instrument Company. The company made Geiger counters for the government to use in the South Pacific for atomic testing after WWII.
The company was able to keep him well employed all through medical school. He was given the job because of his training at Western Reserve, where he actually learned how to work Geiger counters.
Ted knew early on that he wanted to go to Medical School and also had a keen interest in physics and chemistry.
Radiology was the perfect fit for him, and it was there he focused his attention. He did his internship and residency at University Hospital and also received a Fellowship in Nuclear Radiology at University Hospital. "Nuclear Radiology is the use of radioactive substances to diagnose and treat".
Jean and Doctor Ted Castele
While he was in med school, Ted and Jean lived in Lakewood and then Cleveland. In 1963 they built their current home in Fairview Park.
Ted and Jean have seven children; Bob (also a Doctor), Ann Marie (principal of a grade school in Alaska), Dick (a CPA), Mary Kay (works in communications), Tom (chief of staff at a New York law firm), Dan (an engineer) and John (an attorney).
Dr. Ted Castele family in 1974
They also have eighteen grandchildren: 7 girls and 11 boys.
"The most important thing I want to be thought of as is a good husband, father, grandfather, godfather and family man - that's the most important thing of all. Nothing is more important than my family."
Ted and Jean Castele with baby Bobby at Christmas
Dr Ted carves the turkey
Dr. Ted was now in practice and involved with the Cleveland Academy of Medicine. The academy had been getting some bad press as the result of malpractice suits and they were interested in fixing their public image and doing something positive. They thought that maybe they could get a Doctor to go on television and help "clean up the image with a personal touch."
Bob Lang from the Academy called the three stations broadcasting in Cleveland at the time. Two of the stations had no interest, but WEWS, Channel 5 thought it was a great opportunity and jumped on the chance.
The WEWS Director wanted to pick the person to do the spot, but Lang wanted to use a doctor of their choosing. So WEWS gave the Academy the opportunity to send someone for an interview. The Academy chose to send Dr. Ted.
"I was very hesitant. This was not something I had ever done before, but I went ahead and auditioned." He had to make a few demo tapes to be approved by ABC as well as a psychiatrist in Iowa.
Dr. Ted was offered the job, which he accepted. "I found out many years later, no one else auditioned." He kept that job for almost 25 years and "I loved every minute of it." It is this longevity that leads to his claim of over a billion house calls.
Every night the Channel 5 crew would come to his house to do the 11:00 news - live. They knew exactly where to put the trucks and aim the signals. "They had to hit the Terminal Tower in a straight, uninterrupted line, to get the signal through."
It started out as a once a week feature, but almost immediately turned into every other day and soon after that it became daily. At the end, they were shooting 10 times a week.
Dr. Ted and the station jointly picked the topics, although he remembers a lesson he learned when preparing for his second show. For some reason, Dr. Ted has always been fascinated with leprosy (Hansen's Disease), going so far as to visit the Colony in Hawaii. Naturally, when he was asked what he wanted his second show to be about he thought this would be a great topic. The station gently suggested, "Let's talk about the common cold".
Dr. Ted was the first "TV news doctor" in the entire country.
Dr. Ted Castele giving the day's Pollen Count
For 30 years from August 15 to September 30, he gave the pollen count daily. He played Santa Claus in the Channel 5 helicopter which landed at the heliport on Lutheran Hospitals Roof
Dr. Ted Castele in News Chopper 5
He has high regard for the people he worked with at Channel 5 including on-air personalities and crew. "They were all so nice and so professional and very accommodating." He was able to use his family and friends and even his late dog in the spots.
As he thinks back on some of the people he worked with he remembers both Fred Griffith and Ted Henry as "great mentors. They helped me a lot in so many different ways."
Dr. Ted Castele on set with Wilma Smith
Wilma Smith started shortly after Dr. Ted. He cannot say enough about her, describing her as "lovely, sweet, wonderful, joyful, cheerful, friendly and a joy to work with."
Dorothy Fuldheim was also a co-worker of Dr. Ted's. He remembers the first time he was going to meet her and how he "was scared of her that first time." He got some very good advice; Dorothy loved to be flattered.
He was told that if he commented on her appearance and fawned over her in their first meeting, it would help him work with her. So he tried it - and it worked. She told him, on the air, that he "must be a joy to live with" a comment that left his family watching from home laughing.
He also remembers her trademark of wagging her finger at the television. Judd Hambrick, another Dr. Ted favorite, also had a signature move. "He would lean back in his chair and then lunge forward. Always got everybody's attention. It was classic."
He loved Jenny Crimm who came a little later and says Joel Rose played his part as a curmudgeon very well. "That was his role and he knew how to do it."
He thinks that the "ultimate professional, very solid anchor and a great guy" was Roy Weisinger who left in 1998 when he was replaced by Adam Shapiro.
A year later, in 1999, Dr. Ted "retired" although he is active in hundreds of things today.
Dr. Ted Castele in his backyard in 2008
From 1982 to 1997, he also owned his own company, "Medical Consultants Imaging Co." a mobile CAT scan, MRI, nuclear medicine and ultrasound facility.
He does not feel the health message is really that different today than it was when he first started. "Now there are better treatments, new and better procedures, but the fundamentals are the same."
He would love to see a regular segment with a doctor on the air again, instead of just a health reporter. He feels that as talented as a reporter may be, they can only read the script on health issues where a doctor can identify with the matter and use his or her expertise to educate and inform.
Dr. Ted Castele in his home office in 2008
Dr. Ted spent the majority of his professional career at Lutheran Hospital with some time at St. John Westshore and St. Vincent Charity Hospital. In addition to his home, many of the channel 5 segments were shot from his office at Lutheran. The office had permanent lights installed to make the live shots easier.
Since his so-called retirement, he has opened a medical office at Case Western Reserve University. He was the chair of a $300 million fund raising campaign for the School of Medicine - a goal he reached in ten short years. He also chaired many other committees and activities at the school and beyond.
He has a tremendous amount of respect for the schools Dean - Pam Davis and the University President Barbara Snyder. "I am certain they can carry us forward for the greater good of the school."
Dr. Ted has three major areas of activities on which he now concentrates his "free time". The first is his office at CWRU. He has been a Board member or a Board Member Emeritus since the very early 1980's as well as a fund raiser for the entire university.
Second is his work at Fairview General Hospital and Lutheran Hospital's Community West Foundation. Both hospitals are now affiliated with Cleveland Clinic and he has been working with them for approximately seven years.
Dr. Ted and Jean Castele family Christmas 2007
His third area of concentration is the Diocese of Cleveland where Dr. Ted, a devout Roman Catholic is a member of the Foundation Board of Trustees.
He is active in many boards and either retired or honorary board member of others, including National History Museum, Boy Scouts and Providence House. When he is asked, as he so often is, why he devotes so much time to boards and committees he simply responds "Ask God."
He says, "I was brought up with the concept that you do everything that you can, that's reasonable, for your community and others." Even back in his Boy Scout Days he remembers directing traffic at the cemetery on Memorial Day because "Somebody needs to do it. Why shouldn't it be me?"
He and his wife have enjoyed traveling, and when she recuperates from the fractures she is now suffering from they will no doubtedly do more. The especially enjoy vacations with their family.
Jean and Ted Castele and 3 of their kids
at the Grand Canyon
Although he enjoys golf, he is quick to add, "Jean is a better golfer than I ever was." They also love to swim, but once again, he admits "The last we swam laps and kept time she [Jean] beat me."
His work out schedule today is "I work hard and stay active. Not quite as active as I used to be, but I'm always on the go."
He went through stages of "retirement acceptance." First came denial. Then semi-retirement. Then full retirement. Then back to semi-retirement. The shortest lived of all was full retirement. "I can't even say the words." At his most active peak, he easily worked eighty hours a week. For him, semi-retirement means forty.
Jean and Dr. Ted Castele in 2008
Dr. Ted probably could have lived anywhere in the country, but chose to stay in Cleveland. "Cleveland has been a wonderful city to get around in. The cultural offerings are amazing. In any given day, you may have access to monster trucks or baseball or the art museum. And the people are wonderful."
He is a little concerned about the economic struggle Cleveland is currently experiencing but "for all those that can ride it out and survive - Cleveland will make a comeback and be better than ever." He sites the Canadian water treaty as a positive step toward Cleveland's resurgence and thinks of Cleveland not so much as the North Coast but the Fresh Water Coast.
Dr. Ted is a very religious person. He believes strongly in family values and has an amazing work ethic. "Whenever possible people need to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, acknowledging of course, that not everyone is able to - not everyone has the ability." He says that is when we need to step in and help our neighbors.
It would take forever to list all of his memberships, awards and honor. Ranging from the Humility of Mary to The National Institute of Health to Ignatius High school to the Equestrian Knights of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem - and hundreds in between - He has been honored and thanked by many.
The American Medical Association gave him the Benjamin Rush Award for community service, the very highest award they have. Cleveland Clinic honored him with the Pillar of Medicine Award and he has earned the Medaille Shield from St. Joseph Academy for support and encouragement.
He is a founding board member of the Center for Dialysis Care and a Hall of Fame member of the Northeast Ohio Italian American Medical Association. He earned the Archbishop Hoban Award, The Lamplighter Award and The Juno Award.
Case Western Reserve has even created the Dr. Ted Castele Award for civic professionals, which is given out yearly. He was surprised at the first ceremony when he took the stage with his prepared speech introducing the award recipient to learn that he, in fact, was the first recipient of the award.
He humbly acknowledges that many of the awards he has won jointly with his wife or at the very least could not have accomplished what he has without her support.
Ted and Jean Castele on the Love Boat
When the line is drawn and the good guys go to one side and the bad guys to the other, there is no doubt which side of the line Dr. Ted is on. He has chosen to take his natural intelligence and use it in a way beneficial to many people. He shares his talents, his time and his expertise. He is a humble man, who has much to boast about.
He thinks of himself as a servant of God and God's people and never forgets the responsibility that brings with it. He not only does God's work - he does it with a smile on his face and a happy heart.
Dr. Ted Castele not only played a good person on television - he really is one.
Listen to a message from Dr. Ted Castele.
Profiled by Debbie Hanson (July 2008)
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