G. Edward Reahl III, a documentary producer honored for his films about Holocaust survivors and domestic violence, died of complications from diabetes and chronic liver disease Feb. 1 at his Towson home. He was 54.
Born in New York City, he was the son of Dr. G. Edward Reahl Jr., an orthopedic surgeon, and Hannah M. "Nancy" Schanberger, a registered nurse and homemaker. He lived in Fort Lee, N.J., and Baldwin, N.Y., before moving to Baltimore and residing in Rodgers Forge and Guilford.
He attended Saint Pius X School and the old Mount Washington Country School for Boys. He was a 1978 graduate of Calvert Hall College High School, where he played in the school band. He attended Towson University and what is now Loyola University Maryland.
"I bought him a magic set when he was a freshman at Calvert Hall," said his father. "Soon magician Phil Thomas took him under his wing. He also worked with Lou Walston at the Fun House in East Baltimore. He was a close-up magician. He had an amazing ability to manipulate cards and coins."
Family members said he enjoyed performing and created a clown character, "Sparkles." He was also mastered the Metamorphosis illusion created by Harry Houdini. Mr. Reahl appeared on stage handcuffed in a transparent box. He exchanged positions with his handcuffed, standing assistant in three seconds.
As a college student Mr. Reahl began working as a production assistant for "Evening Magazine," a Group W production, at WJZ-TV.
"I wanted to soak it all in," he said in a 2002 Towson Times article. "I made a vow I would learn everyone's job."
He later worked for CBS in Washington, and then returned to WJZ-TV as a special unit producer. Among his early works was a documentary on homelessness in Baltimore.
"He was an outgoing person who would not let adversity get in his way," said Dr. Reahl, who lives in Guilford. "When making a film, he would not hesitate to put his own safety at risk."
Family members said he founded Prime Time Productions Inc., a production company specializing in television programs and documentaries, in 1989. He later started Ed Reahl Productions Inc., a film and video studio in Towson.
"He knew every aspect of video production. He was brilliant," said Nick D'Alesandro, a longtime friend. "He had a wonderful ability to connect with people. He could get people to talk in a genuine, compassionate way. As a documentary maker, he gained peoples' confidence easily in a natural and relaxed supportive manner."
Mr. Reahl produced a documentary, "Not in Our League," a tribute to African-American baseball that won an Iris Award. He also won awards for "Teen Dads — The Forgotten Half," which appeared on WJZ-TV.
In 1995, WMAR-TV aired his "Triumph of the Spirit," which he made with Arleen Weiner. The documentary recounted the Holocaust experiences of three survivors, Adele "Deli" Strummer of Baltimore, Renee Fritz of Hartford, Conn., and Alice Cahana of Houston.
"He was a very caring man and was personally helpful to me," said Ms. Strummer. "I was born in Vienna, and when we came back there for the film, he held my hand. I was shaking."
In 1996, American Women in Radio & Television awarded him its best documentary prize for "Triumph of the Spirit."
"He has not only sought to educate the public in making this video," said Terry Lee Blevins, who managed a domestic violence hotline in 2002 and was quoted in the 2002 Towson Times article. "He has aided us in opening closed doors to let those who live and suffer silently see a ray of hope."
When asked about the honors he received, Mr. Reahl said, " I truly believe the awards are for the people whose stories I tell. ... Every piece that I do has to have a glimmer of hope. For example, hope that other women do not have to go through the same horrifying experience."
Family members said he spoke before youth organizations, high schools, universities, corporations and nonprofits. He also taught filmmaking at the Maryland Institute College of Art.
A Mass of Christian burial will be celebrated at 10:30 Friday at Saint Pius X Roman Catholic Church, 6428 York Road in Rodgers Forge.
In addition to his father, survivors include two sons, Brad Reahl and Brooks Reahl, both of Ruxton; a brother, David L. Reahl Sr. of Chicago; and three sisters, Susan Johns of Bonita Springs, Fla., Barbara Kasun of Bel Air and Nancy Bollinger of Baltimore. His marriage to the former Carrie C. Bradley ended in divorce.