Knowledgeable, eager to help people and passionate about public-access television and radio, Erik Mollberg leaves a lasting legacy in Fort Wayne, those who worked with him said.
Mollberg, 57, the assistant manager for Access Fort Wayne at the Allen County Public Library and the manager of the library's low-power, community radio station, WELT, 95.7-FM, died Friday after being seriously injured about 8:30 a.m. that morning in a traffic accident at Leesburg and Rapp roads near the Allen-Whitley County line.
"You hate to lose people who have such a good impact in the world," said Ricky Kemery, horticulture educator with the Allen County office of the Purdue Cooperative Extension, who worked with Mollberg on gardening shows on local public-access TV and on WELT.
Investigators with the Allen County Sheriff's Department reported a Black Dodge Caravan was westbound on Leesburg Road before attempting to turn southbound on Rapp Road. The van turned in front of Mollberg, who was traveling east on Leesburg Road, and his motorcycle hit the van in the intersection, the sheriff's department report said.
Mollberg, of Columbia City, was taken to a local hospital in critical condition, where he later died, the sheriff's department reported. The driver and passenger of the Dodge Caravan were not injured.
The Allen County Corner ruled Mollberg died from blunt force trauma due to the accident. The death was ruled an accident.
Mollberg is the 22nd traffic fatality for Fort Wayne and Allen County in 2017, the coroner's office said. The accident remains under investigation by the sheriff's department, coroner and Allen County Prosecutor's office.
“Erik was a beloved co-worker for many years, and words fail us at a time like this," a statement released by the library said. "Our thoughts are with Erik's wife, family and friends.”
The library also will make grief counseling and emotional support available to Mollberg's co-workers, as well as to the volunteers who worked with him through Access Fort Wayne and WELT, said Stephanny Smith, library community engagement manager.
During his approximately 30 years with the library's public-access department, Mollberg eagerly shared his time and knowledge with others.
"He helped people edit. He shot programs. He answered questions," said Terry Doran, a longtime local filmmaker who has done numerous public-access TV shows over the years, including "Theatre for Ideas."
Doran said he saw Mollberg a week ago when he helped Doran and another man with editing a video recording of a health care rally Doran had helped organize outside the Federal Building in Fort Wayne.
"That's fitting — the last time I saw him, he was helping," Doran said.
An expert on all of the TV and radio equipment at Access Fort Wayne, Mollberg gladly showed volunteers and others how to use it, Doran said.
Mollberg also was passionate about public-access programming, he said, even attending meetings to fight for it when it faced threats such as funding cuts.
"He obviously believed in giving everybody a voice," Doran said. "So many people don't have a voice."
Possibly Mollberg's biggest accomplishment at the library has been planning, building and organizing volunteers to bring WELT on the air in February 2016. The process to get there took at least a few years.
Now, volunteers from the community create and host radio shows on WELT ranging from music and talk to information. The programs — especially the music shows — offer a much wider variety than what is available on commercial radio.
WELT was "his baby," and Mollberg generated great enthusiasm for the station among all of the people involved with it, said Advanced Master Gardener volunteer Jane Ford, who writes the What's Bloomin' gardening column for The News-Sentinel. Ford and the extension office's Kemery have worked together with Mollberg on and off for about 20 years on gardening shows, first on public-access TV and then on WELT, though they aren't doing a show now.
"He had a gift of, as I said, making everyone comfortable and feel like they were special," Ford said, describing Mollberg as "everyone's best friend."
"It (WELT) was his big dream, he always said," Kemery recalled. "At least he was able to live part of the dream."