Arnold C. Rifkin, Pioneering Local WJZ-TV Engineer Who Later Had a Second Career as a Chef, Dies – Baltimore Sun
Arnold C. Rifkin, a Korean War veteran and pioneering WJZ-TV engineer who later in life had a second career as a chef, died of complications from dementia May 4 at his home in Pikesville. He was 93 years old.
“He died in his library surrounded by thousands of cookbooks, engineering and television books, and other memorabilia from his life,” said a son, Alan Rifkin, of Parkville. “He was an autodidact and an autodidact.”
Another son, Dr. Scott Rifkin, who lives in Lutherville, described his father as “an honest, hard-working guy who had a fascinating life.”
“Arnold Rifkin was a sound engineer and a pioneer of television as we know it. He was the first on TV to mount a camera, and that was the beginning of mobile TV,” said Richard Sher, longtime WJZ-TV newscaster and current host of the online show. Square Off”.
“There was nothing Arnold couldn’t fix, and he was very smart. He really was. I remember we gave him a TV to fix and he came back 2 and a half years later” , Mr. Sher said with a laugh, “He really was the best of the best.”
Arnold Charles Rifkin, son of Russian immigrant tailor, Isadore Rifkin, and his ex-wife, Sara Rifkin, an immigrant from what was then Odessa, Russia, who was an office worker, was born in Baltimore and raised near Patterson Park by his single working mother after his parents divorced.
A 1947 graduate of City College High School, he worked as an X-ray technician for the Baltimore City Health Department.
When he was 17, he met and fell in love with the former Sally Conn, who was 14. The couple married in 1949.
“I fell in love with Arnold on our first date. We danced, talked and looked at each other,” Ms. Rifkin wrote in a family memoir. “I could see the love in his eyes. “
“She couldn’t wait to be 18 so she could marry my dad,” Alan Rifkin said.
In 1949, Mr. Rifkin enlisted in the Marine Corps where he studied radar engineering, trained as a sniper, took up photography and became the camp photographer at Camp Lejeune.
Mr. Rifkin won an award for “being the best sniper in the division,” his son said. “Because he loved photography, my mom made a sign that said, ‘We’re shooting the Marines’.”
He was about to be sent to Korea when the armistice was signed.
The couple moved back to Baltimore and studied radio engineering on the GI Bill. With the advent of commercial television, he began working in Baltimore at WAAM-TV, an NBC affiliate, which aired in 1957, and later became today’s WJZ-TV.
Throughout his three decades at the station, Mr. Rifkin covered gubernatorial elections, sporting events, storms, fires and the funeral of President John F. Kennedy in 1963. After a hostage situation in 1978 at University Hospital, now the University of Maryland Medical Center, he received an award for helping to keep those around him safe.
An ever-innovative thinker, in 1974 Mr. Rifkin came up with the idea of mounting a television camera on the roof of a van.
“He had this idea in the early 1970s, that you could broadcast news to the streets because the cameras were fixed in the studio and heavy,” said Alan Rifkin. “His idea was to bolt one on the roof of a van which was also fitted with video recording equipment which could be driven to where the news was falling. The film was then taken back to the studio where it aired.
Mr. Rifkin was recognized for creating the mobile television van in 1980, when he received an award from the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers.
Mr. Sher recalled working with Mr. Rifkin at a midday parade in downtown Baltimore that celebrated the Orioles’ victory in the 1983 World Series after beating the Philadelphia Phillies four games to one.
“Arnold was a bit eccentric, and you never wanted to do anything that pissed him off because he was holding his own. He was the engineer and I was reporting on the parade,” he said.
“Through our headphones, I could hear him shouting and insulting the technicians in the field. I told him about it and he gave me the Rifkin treatment yelling and yelling at me,” Mr. Sher recalled with a laugh.
In 1987, while working on equipment in a confined area, an explosion left Mr. Rifkin with 95% hearing loss which led to his retirement the following year.
During his final night at the station, WJZ-TV news anchor Denise Koch paid Mr. Rifkin a heartfelt tribute as he stood next to a mobile news truck he had invented.
“A moving retirement: it looks like Arnold Rifkin, WJZ-TV cameraman extraordinaire, is going to trade his Ikegami for a Cuisinart,” The Sun reported at the time. “But none of that for this vivacious 58-year-old. Rifkin has enrolled in the Culinary Arts Institute and is considering a second career as a chef. Break a chicken leg, Arnold!
For a man who loved talking to others and singing, the accident was a devastating and upsetting event, but Mr. Rifkin had the resilience and determination to reinvent himself.
He always loved cooking and decided, at the age of 58, to become a student at what was then known as the Culinary Arts Institute of Baltimore. The school became Baltimore International College and was later acquired by the University of Stratford.
In 1989, his three sons sent Mr. Rifkin and his wife to Paris, where he enrolled and studied French cuisine at the Institut Culinaire De Paris, and where he developed his affection for the City of Light.
Thereafter, each summer he and his wife returned to spend a month exploring and learning about the local restaurant scene, and he enjoyed quiet times sitting in Luxembourg Park to take photos.
After graduating from culinary school, he worked as a line chef at various local restaurants in Baltimore, including Linwoods in Owings Mills.
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“He loved to make anything French, especially pancakes, and even brought a pancake machine back to Baltimore from Paris,” said Alan Rifkin. “He continued to cook professionally until his retirement at the age of 70.”
Known and revered throughout his family for his culinary art, he could always be counted on to bring challah or other gourmet dishes to family events, his son said.
Because of his situation in a single-parent family, Mr. Rifkin’s family was at the center of his life.
“He always wanted to have his own family. It was a lifelong quest,” said Alan Rifkin.
Family members said he took thousands of photos “showing his pride in his wonderful family”.
The funeral was held Friday at Sol Levinson & Bros. in Pikesville, with interment at the Hebrew Young Men’s Cemetery in Gwynn Oak.
Besides his wife of 73 years, a public school educator, and two sons, Mr. Rifkin is survived by one other son, David Rifkin of Jacksonville, Florida; a half-brother, Leonard Rifkin of Boca Raton, Florida; 12 grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.