Nelson Runger, 81, of Yardley, a celebrated audiobook narrator, died Sunday, April 7, at home of complications from prostate cancer. Born in Pittsburgh to Nelson and Charlotte Runger, he graduated from Mount Lebanon High School in Pittsburgh in 1949 and cum laude from Princeton University in 1953, majoring in English. He spent 30 years in public relations for New Jersey Bell Telephone Co. before taking early retirement in 1986 to embark on a second career as an audiobook narrator. For 25 years, he recorded various products for Educational Testing Service in Princeton, earning him the title "the Voice of ETS," said his wife, the former Peggy Madry. He recorded more than 160 nonfiction books, on figures including Cleopatra, Lincoln, Eisenhower, and Stalin. "I always enjoyed reading aloud, probably because my mother encouraged me to do that," Mr. Runger told an Inquirer reporter in 2004. The trick, he said, was immersing oneself in the material through imagination, and using changes in pitch, volume, or dialect to distinguish who was speaking. "In straight narration of a quality book, the narration should be almost transparent. . . . The narrator should not call attention to himself or herself," Mr. Runger said. In 2002, Mr. Runger received an Audie Award from the Audio Publishers Association in the unabridged-nonfiction category for his Recorded Books version of John Adams by David McCullough. He was an Audie nominee in 2003 for his narration of His Excellency: George Washington by Joseph J. Ellis. Mr. Runger received an Audiophile magazine Earphones Award in 2005 for Benjamin Franklin by Walter Isaacson and in 2008 for Nixon and Kissinger by Robert Dallek. Also in 2008, he received Audiophile's Best Voices of the Year award for his narration of Dallek's book. In December, he completed his final audiobook recording, Trillions by Peter Lucas, Joe Ballay, and Mickey McManus. He and his wife met in Virginia Beach, Va., in 1951, after his sophomore year at Princeton. She was "the landlady's daughter," he the tenant. The two courted by mail for four years; they married in 1955 and moved to Lower Makefield, where they lived for 57 years. "He was fun. I married him because he made me laugh," his wife said. Mr. Runger wrote poems to honor his friends with customized lyrics to familiar tunes such as "Bye, Bye, Blackbird." He was a member of the First Presbyterian Church of Morrisville, where he served as a deacon, and as a Sunday school teacher for 41 years. Surviving, in addition to his wife, are a son, Logan, and a granddaughter. A memorial service at which Mr. Runger's recordings will be played will be at 3 p.m. Saturday, May 11, at Woodside Presbyterian Church, 1667 Edgewood Rd., Yardley. Visitation will begin at 2 p.m. The family chose cremation. Donations to the V Foundation for Cancer Research may be made via www.jimmyv.org.