I wrote a while back about an amazing CW QSO I had with a fellow operating portable from the bank of the Suwanee River, and the joy and admiration I felt at receiving his custom QSL and learning he was 90 years young. We should all be so lucky, right?!
I had the pleasure of a repeat contact with Jim, KB2JWD, just recently, another 40 meter QSO with Jim running his tiny NORCAL QRP rig, operating from near the Suwanee River, and sending beautiful Morse, just like before. We chatted for a bit, and it occurred to me that Jim might enjoy reading what I had written about our first encounter.
I asked if Jim had access to the Internet, but he indicated that he didn’t have a computer there at the retirement facility, or that perhaps he wasn’t comfortable with the web, and so I elected to print and mail my little story to him.
And so I did, and promptly forgot all about it.
A week or two passed, and I received an interesting email from a chap in Michigan, Hank Greeb, N8XX. Seems as though Hank was contacted by Jim’s brother David who was searching for repair work to Jim’s rig. At 90 years of age, Jim was no longer able to diagnose or repair his issue, and so his younger brother David (83) took up the cause and reached out to Hank. And Hank, in the true spirit of Amateur Radio, generously assisted in more ways than one. I learned the details in a letter from David, where he wrote:
For the past few years Jim has been living at Advent Christian Village in Florida, a large progressive retirement village. He first lived in his own apartment, driving his own car etc. He has been a ham for a number of years, building his own QRP kits. I believe the card you featured he drew up many years ago when he was living in N.J.
Last year Jim’s health went downhill and he could no longer have his car and he ended up in Advent’s nursing home. This year with improving health he is living in Advent’s assisted living.
His radio shack at the Village has been an outdoor pavilion about a mile from the assisted living. Until recently,when he got a golf cart, he had to depend on the Village shuttle bus,and their schedule, to get to the shack and back severely limiting his on-air time.
When he did get back on air after the nursing home stint his rig was not operating and he was no longer able to diagnose or repair any problems.
Creighton (the third brother) and I talked several times about buying Jim a new rig so he could get back on air but neither of us had any idea of what or where to buy. Playing with this tablet one day I googled QRP, MICH and came up with a list of officers in the local club. Only one of them listed a snail mail address, Hank, N8XX. Not being sure of email at the time, on a Wednesday I mailed a letter to Hank explaining Jim’s problem and a desire to buy equipment including my ph. #, email and home address. On Friday I got both a phone call and an email from Hank. And he had tracked Jim down by phone and talked ham talk with him!
Our first approach was that Hank was going to watch Ebay for a suitable replacement and let me know so we could purchase same. As we continued to talk, Jim felt comfortable enough to send his unit to Hank for repair. Hank diagnosed the problem, ordered parts, and made repairs but another problem developed. More parts were ordered and another ham assisted Hank with repairs.
During this time, Hank got on the internet wondering if any ham had an extra rig they would “loan” to a 90 year old ham while his was being repaired. Next thing we know a ham from California has mailed Jim the rig he his now using. And he insists it is a gift, not a loaner!
This wonderful ham is Phil Wheeler,W7OX.
I touched bases with Phil, W7OX, who confirmed that the NORCAL 40 is most definitely a gift, and not a loaner. Phil also shared that he has a passion for building, and takes special pride in his Elecraft K2 “because I soldered ever part in it and keep adding to it (next week a Bluetooth interface).” Quite an interesting fellow, Phil told me a bit more about himself.
I started out as W7UOX in the northwest in 1953-1960. Then I relocated to So California to design satellites and such for 32 years. Retired at 55 in 1992 then went back to work for another 13 years consulting and such in aerospace. Until 2004 or so I was an avid mountain climber — Himalayas in 1994, Andes & Patagonia in 2004 — but mostly in the Sierras and Cascades.
At 78, Phil is going strong yet and still hits the hiking trail, “though with less lofty ambitions.“
Phil, W7OX, and Hank, N8XX, both remind me of the many generous and compassionate fellow hams I’ve known throughout the years. And they also provide inspiration to redouble my own efforts to reach out a helping hand whenever the opportunity arises.
Here’s to you, Phil and Dave, shining examples of all that’s right with our wonderful hobby!