The May 2010 Reflector
Sitting here penning this column, I’m reminded of a few years ago when due to all the club was involved in, I referred to it as “Awful April.” After the last four weeks, it would seem that the past is re-visiting us again.
We started the month with a good meeting to get everything planned out and the ball began to roll from there.
Week 2 saw us at the EOC erecting antennas on Friday evening and Saturday morning to participate for the first time on the Georgia QSO party. This event showcases Georgia stations in a contest to see how many outsiders can make a Georgia contact. In particular, “County Hunters” abound, and their whole purpose is to collect a contact from each of the 159 counties in the state.
The first few hours had an inauspicious start. Early that week, that was a spectacular solar event that had band conditions about as poor as they can get. We’d set up the 80-meter loop (also OK on 20) and a 40-meter dipole and both Lowell’s Kenwood TS-930 and my Yaesu FT-1000 were more than happy with the match. We began tuning around and there was pretty much nothing…nada…
One thing we did note…there was no crosstalk between the radios…great news for Field Day!
We had a quick test session at noon and added Steve Williams from Cairo as a new Tech and TARC member, and waited for the 2pm starting gun. The first few hours were nothing special, but after a while, 20 and 40 began waking up, and 80 came up a short time later.
Bobby and several others knocked out decent numbers that afternoon, but later in the evening, Gina and Stewart really got rolling and there was a prolonged period where the contacts came literally as fast as they could be written down.
Unlike Field Day, QSO party contacts can come from pretty much anywhere, and while I logged for Gina, she worked a number of different countries, several multiple times.
As she’d never contested before, it was interesting to watch her progression as an HF operator. She started out a bit on the shy side, but the fact that the big loop was guaranteeing almost instant replies boosted her confidence level and she was suddenly at the center of several pile-ups.
One particularly amorous Italian station wished her 73s and 88s, and she looked at me and said, “What’s 88??” Her face turned red after I told her it meant “hugs and kisses” and by that time, the fellow had several friends jump in to give her more contacts.
A short time later, two Mexican stations attempted to take the frequency where we were “camped out,” and she looked at me and said ” They CAN’T do that” and jumped right back in and said “This frequency is in use…YOU”LL HAVE TO MOVE!!”
Guess what?…They moved!…I knew right then that she’ll be one of our principle operators come Field Day.
Both our EOC stations had something over 200 contacts apiece, and late that evening, Terry and Gary stopped by after doing about 400 miles as a “Rover” and getting around 500 contacts in the bargain. Rovers are mobile stations whose job is to put counties who have no resident hams on the air.
Terry also got the honor of having turned in the first photo to the SECC (they are the group that handles the contest) and it appeared on their website that Monday. If I’m not mistaken, his mobile ended with 621 CW contacts.
Weekend 3 saw us involved in the revitalized TOSRV bike ride, looking after around 270 riders. We deployed the Comm Trailer, and it’s new smaller companion “PITS 1” to Sale City, and we could easily work all the repeaters involved. So now you’re wondering…what’s the “PITS” business…right?
After we acquired the trailer, Steve Andrews and I were discussing it and Steve said it needed a catchy name. He came up with “PEACH” which stands for Portable Emergency Amateur Communications Headquarters. Not to be undone, and as we were thinking of having the 60 foot crank-up permanently mounted, I said that the tower would be known as “PITS” which stood for Portable Integrated Tower System. Ever seen a PEACH without PITS?
All joshing aside, we decided mounting the tower to the trailer might prove to be too much, but continued to think about what we could do for our antennas. As I surfed the Internet in search of ideas, I ran across a site for a company that builds tower trailers and one of their smaller designs looked about the same size of the little trailer I used to transport my four-wheeler on. The mental wheels began to turn.
I got Buddy and his brother Wayne involved and the “PITS” idea reformed in a smaller package that would be useful without having to deploy the large trailer too. Using the military crank-up I already owned, we’ve come up with a unit that can be towed by pretty much anything, car, truck, even the four-wheeler. Depending on the center mast used, it can be up to about 40 feet tall too. There’s also an onboard 2-KW generator.
Guess that means “PITS” now stands for “Power Independent Tower System.”
All to say, TOSRV went very well and our new systems worked as well as we’d hoped.
Yesterday, around 80 people showed up for the third annual Radio Reunion. That number is off a bit from the previous two years, and may well have been due to the bad weather being forecast for the area. Thankfully, it didn’t materialize.
A number of area groups were represented: Tallahassee ARS, Albany ARC, Colquitt County HRS, Valdosta ARC, Madison ARES, Jefferson ARES, and Echols ARES. That’s the point of this event…get people from all the different groups together for a face to face meeting without having to chase bicycles, or pass traffic.
First Newark’s social hall proved to be an excellent location that will provide plenty of room for more growth in the years to come. We had several tables filled with just about anything you could think of. Carl, NN5I, from Tallahassee even showed up with a freshly baked turkey with stuffing!
Our hats are off to everyone who worked their kitchen magic at home and brought numerous side dishes to fill the tables. Buddy did his usual great job at smoking the BBQ chicken that was the main course. Wynona led the team effort in the kitchen with Dana, Sally, Chantal and others hard at it to make this event another great success.
Dana also had a PowerPoint presentation running showing TARC in action through the events of the past few years. The 4 Club Presidents in attendance, and designated spokespeople from the ARES groups were given a moment at the microphone to talk about what their groups have going on.
All in all, it was a great event that everyone enjoyed, and everyone indicated they looked forward to doing it again.
May continues to have us busy, and while we’ll discuss those events in more detail at the meeting on May 1st, I’ll hit them briefly here.
May 8th is Peacock Day and Wynona will be asking for help to set up the parade. Arrival time is 9am and we’ll have to have the parade ready to roll by 11. This event gets us free use of the civic club facility for the November Fish Fry.
May 15th is Midmonth Breakfast at the Plaza with a Test Session following at the Library.
Finally (whew!!) May 22 is the day Wynona has set for our Yard Sale, which will be at Morningside Methodist Church at Pinetree and Smith Avenue. We’ll discuss a start time at the meeting, but according to experienced yard sale people, the earlier the better. The funds raised here go toward the trailer A/C replacement, and also hopefully helps us all do some needed spring cleaning at home.
May 29th…horror of horrors…is open…how about that? (It’s Memorial Day weekend)
That final Monday, May 31st, is Memorial Day, and as is custom with our group, we honor our military vets on the back page of the May Reflector.
This year, it’s aimed at one person in particular, who we lost late last year. His “memorial,” which I found rather difficult to write, follows shortly.
I hope to see everyone at the club meeting on May 1st, and we’ll continue on with the business of running this great little group we call the “TARC Radio Family.” Plan to arrive at 6 if you’re having supper and we’ll get on with the meeting at 7:30.
Until Then, 73…Mike
A+ Test Results!!
There were actually 2 test sessions this month, one for licensing, and one for Emcomm.
First, congratulations to Steve Williams of Cairo, who is a new Technician, callsign KJ4UKR, as well as a new TARC member.
We also have 5 new people sporting Emcomm 1 credentials following 3 days of classes. They are Roberta, K4HRM, Stewart, KJ4GOJ, Gina, W4GNA, Bill, KW4EF, and Mike, KE4FGF.
The next regular Test Session will be at the Thomas County Public Library on May 15th at 10am. Congratulations to all these folks on their accomplishments!
If you were listening to the Thursday Night Net on April 22nd, you know that Walt, KI4TFL, was admitted to CRMC in Tallahassee.
He was stung by something while mowing the weeds around his house on Tuesday, April 20th.
By Wednesday morning, his eye was swollen to the point he could not see out of it, so he went to the VA in Tallahassee and the doctor there said it would be better in a few days and sent him home.
On Thursday morning, he began feeling really bad, and began having chest pains, so he returned to the VA. They indicated that he was having a heart attack, and immediately sent him to Capital Regional Medical Center.
Dr. Davidson looked at Walt’s EKG and said there was no new damage to his heart but kept him for further observation. They decided that they could treat his condition with medication and allowed him to go home. Walt is feeling better and plans to be at the next meeting.Please keep him in your thoughts and prayers as he continues to recuperate.
Have you checked out our Website??
Lowell continues to do a “bang-up” job with the TARC website. We’re getting a lot of traffic and a lot of people have mentioned how good it looks. What I like best is that Lowell makes sure it always has fresh material. It’s all too common to go to a website and see material that is several years old. Not with this site!
I’ve noticed a lot of you making pictures at our various events and I’d like to remind you to please share them for posting to the website. “A picture is worth a thousand words” and also gives the viewing public an actual look at what we do.
So, we all say a great big “THANK YOU” to Lowell for all his hard work!!
We had a great turnout for the 2010 edition of TOSRV 2010. The event ran smoothly with only a couple of minor accidents. TARC handled the middle section of the race with Tallahassee ARS handling the southern end and the Albany ARC handling the north. Stations involved were:
KF4GBS, KI4TFL, KI4RGD, KJ4URK, KW4EF, KJ4KUJ, KJ4KUK, KC4LYC, KE4RWR, WD4CJI, N4KXL, AI4CW, KI4HGO, N4KGT, W1ABT, and KE4FGF.
Our Section Manager, Gene, W4AYK was a rider on both days.
Thanks to all who helped make this event a rousing success!!
As we’ve just finished handling the TOSRV Bike Ride, it’s probably a good time to have a “debriefing” about what all went on during the event. I realized during the event that several of the new people may have had some questions about what they were supposed to be doing, so let’s hit a few of the high points
1) The Net.
In this case, we didn’t run a “Formal,” controlled net, which is where you ask the Net Control station for permission to call someone. I noticed some people were operating that way and some were not. Best case here is to always assume it’s a Controlled Net until someone tells you otherwise. Reports should be kept brief and to the point to keep the frequency clear in case a weak station needs to report an emergency. As most new folks (and there were a few) start out with HTs only, they’re easy to cover up
2) What you should be reporting.
This should always be clarified beforehand. In this case, because there were two separate starting points, and the fact that everyone deployed directly to their spot as a “gas-saving” measure, new folks were a bit “in the dark” about what to report. So, quickly, here’s what the “Served Agency” in this case the bike group, would have been interested in.
a) Accidents – always receives ultimate priority particularly if Medical assistance is needed…that’s the reason we strive to keep the frequency clear
b) First Rider past your location – watch for and record the rider’s number
c) Last Rider – should be followed by “Tail End Charlie”
d) Mechanical Problems – 100 miles is as tough on equipment as it is the riders. There is always a radio op with the “Mechanic.”
e) Road Hazards – Dogs chasing riders, weather events, or anything that would endanger the riders…and yes they do sometimes ride when it rains. If you see problems with the road on the way to your assigned spot, let Net Control know so another ham can be assigned to that spot if deemed necessary.
f) Announce when you are at your location – simply tell the Net Control you are where you were assigned to be so he can mark you on the map and note your call sign.
g) Announce when you leave your location – Once Tail End Charlie passes by your location; always notify Net Control before packing up and heading home. If you want to continue, ask for re-assignment, or if you need to head home, ask to be relieved.
One or two riders passing by don’t necessarily need to be reported. A large group might be worth reporting, mainly if a ride official wants to know where the “main body” of riders is at on the course.
The staff vehicles are marked, and usually include the Medic, the Mechanic, and a “Sag Wagon” for picking up riders who can’t continue. They will usually stop at your location and it doesn’t hurt to let the Net Control know they are presently at your location in case someone needs them.
If these events run as they are supposed to, they can be a little bit boring, because proper procedure means there is little radio traffic to listen to. Again, what we want is for the frequency to stay clear for emergencies, and “rag-chewing” would interfere with that.
So, that’s my take on 2010 TOSRV. I hope this clears up any questions that you may have had about the event. All in all, everything went very well, and you folks who are new now have good experience to draw on next time out…
NØ Tenna Wizard: by Terry Webb, NØTW
Quarter-Wave Matching Section
Often, the impedance of the antenna that you have constructed is not 50 ohms. If your antenna has been designed for monoband performance, then the quarter-wave matching section may provide you with the ability to get its SWR closer to a 1:1 match.
Here's how it works. Lets say that you have built a short vertical antenna and connect an antenna analyzer and find out that the radiation resistance is 23 ohms. Let's assume the ground losses are 10 ohms, bringing the total impedance up to 33 ohms. If you try to feed this antenna direct with coax, you will find the SWR is 50/33 = 1.52. Not that bad, but is there a way to make it better? Yep, the quarter-wave transformer.
Take a piece of 75 ohm cable, determine its 1/4 wavelength at the frequency of operation. For example, at 14.25 MHz, 1/4 wavelength is 17.3 ft in length. Multiply times the velocity factor of the cable (0.8 for RG-6 coax) and the 1/4 wavelength is 17.3 x 0.8 = 13.8 ft. Inserting a 13.8 ft piece of 75 ohm coax between the antenna feedpoint and the 50 ohm coax to the shack will bring the SWR down to 1:1.
The actual equation is Z = Square Root of (33 x 75) = 49.75 ohms. So, the 1/4 wavelength section transforms the impedance from 33 ohms at the antenna to 49.75 ohms at the other end of the coaxial line - a perfect match for 50 ohm coax.
The disadvantage is that this works for just 1 band. If you are using your antenna on more than one band, this technique will not work.
It also works if the antenna impedance is high, say 100 ohms. Z = Square Root of (100 x 75) = 86.6 ohms. This would bring the SWR down from 2:1 to 1.73:1.
There are lots of tricks to use when dealing with trying to match antenna loads. For example, if you connect 2 equal lengths of 75 ohm cable in parallel, the resultant impedance of the cable is 37.5 ohms.
Another trick to use is: say you need a 73-degree cable at 3.8 MHz. You can cut the cable for 90 degrees at 3.8 x (90/73) = 4.685 MHz, and it will be correct for 73-degrees at 3.8 MHz.
A good antenna analyzer is needed in order to measure coax cable parameters. If not using the MFJ 258 series, a cheaper alternative is the Autek RF-1.
I hope that you are not afraid to build your own antennas. Homebrew antennas quite often outperform commercial ones.
73 es CU On the Bands
Thomasville Amateur Radio Club
April 3, 2010
Meeting started at 7:30 p.m.
32 Members, 3 visitors
1. Welcome and Announcements: Mike – KE4FGF
Midmonth Breakfast – cancelled
The midmonth breakfast is cancelled this month due to so many scheduled activities this month.
Test session – April 10 – TC-EOC 12pm
The next scheduled test session will be held Saturday, April 10, at the Thomas County EOC at 12:00 p.m. Note the time change for this test session.
EMCOMM 1 Test – April 11 – TCEOC – 2pm
The EMCOMM 1 test is scheduled for this Sunday, April 11, at 2 p.m. The test session will be held at the Thomas County EOC.
Friday Breakfast at Chick-Fil-A - 8:30am
Several hams have started meeting for breakfast on Friday mornings. The next breakfast will be held at Granddaddy’s on Smith Ave., April 9.
Mike reminded the group that Bobby is raffling off a Weatherby 12gauge shotgun towards the purchase of a new van. Raffle tickets are $10 each and are available at the meeting.
2. Minutes and Treasurers Report:
The minutes are published online. Bobby, N4KXL, read the treasurers report. No questions for the minutes or treasurers report. Bobby is also collecting club dues. Dan, KF4WF made the motion to accept the treasures report and minutes. Motion passed.
3. Old Business:
GA QSO Party – April 10 & 11, Antenna Set-up time? Rules - attachment
Lowell, NY4D, presented information concerning the GA QSO party. He brought sign-up sheets for club members to volunteer and operate at various times over the weekend. The GA QSO party starts at 2:00 p.m. Saturday and runs until midnight. It convenes on Sunday at 10:00 a.m. and concludes at 10:00 p.m. Mike commented that this event would be a precursor to Field Day Operations, since we are testing newly constructed antennas. Several volunteers are needed to help set-up antennas Friday, April 9, at 6:00 p.m. at the Thomas County EOC ahead of the actual event.
Mike recognized two visitors from Moultrie, Duncan and Jan Sinclair. Jan is a “graduate” of the last TARC Tech Class.
2010 Radio Reunion – April 24th – First Newark Social Hall with the meal to be served at 1pm.
Mike asked who would be attending this year’s Radio Reunion? Lowell commented that a map is located on the website for directions to the social hall. Mike suggested that we might wish to use the trailer as the talk in station.
Yard Sale – Wynona
Wynona is organizing a yard sale on Saturday, May 22, to benefit the club’s communication’s trailer AC replacement. Bring donations into town the day of the event – preferably. Donations can be dropped off the night before. Be early, since most yard sale customers shop early. The yard sale will be held at the Methodist Church. Mike assured everyone that we would have more time to discuss the logistics at our next club meeting.
4. New Business:
TOSRV – Need participants and T-shirt sizes
Volunteers are need to help with this year’s TOSROV bicycle ride, April 17 and 18. The event begins at 8:00 a.m. from two locations: Havana and Cairo. Our club is responsible for the Cairo start point and up through Sale City. Mike is planning on having the communications trailer placed at Sale City. Please see Mike if you are interested in participating and let him know your t-shirt size. Bobby is planning on being the NCS (Net Control Station) from his QTH. Dan, KI4HGO commented that Sale City might not have power for the trailer. Walt, KI4TFL requested if maps were available? Dan did not have maps at this time.
Pavo Peacock Day Parade – May 8th
The Pavo Peacock parade will be held Saturday, May 8. Mike will spend more time discussing this event at our May club meeting. If you plan to help, please let Wynonna know.
Field Day T-shirts, hats, pins?
Mike brought some Field Day literature where we can purchase supplies such as t-shirts, pins, etc. He asked if there was any interest ordering as a group.
Mike asked if there was any other new business.
Gary, KA3FZO announced that the Monticello repeater is operational on 145.430 MHz (94.8 tone). They have started a local net held on Monday night at 8:00 p.m. All hams are encouraged to participate. Gary also mentioned that he and several others had discovered an issue using G-Mail recently. Apparently, G-Mail will copy/remove all personal contact information and forward with certain email messages. This seems to be a problem with Verizon customers only. Mary, KI4JOO also reiterated the problem concerning G-Mail and Verizon. Lowell commented that he does not have any issues with his G-Mail account. Walt brought up a concern that his Windstream service was breaking his Internet connection for important phone calls.
Mike wanted to recognize Robert, KB4RG, for all his hard work for the club. Robert will be moving soon back to Texas. He will be missed.
Meeting adjourned at 8:08 p.m.
Next Regular Club Meeting will be held May 1, 2010 at the Plaza Restaurant at 7:30 p.m. Arrive early and eat dinner.
Respectfully Submitted by
Dewey Rykard II, KI4RGD
It is customary for us to honor the Military Vets in our club twice a year, on Veteran’s Day and again on Memorial Day. This year I chose to honor one we’ve recently lost, as that is the real reason Memorial Day was started many years ago.
It has taken a while to write this, and indeed I think some people thought I was going to let this fine man’s passing go by without much comment…not so…
The honoree was a very close friend of many years, and my feelings kept getting in the way of saying what I wanted and needed to while having it make sense on paper.
Several weeks ago, I chanced on a picture of him, taken shortly before he shipped off to war, and as his eyes looked out at me, the “writer’s block” cleared and I knew how to do what I wanted and needed to put down on paper.
Maybe in some small way, this was always meant to be something for Memorial Day…
The young man sat quietly at the desk in his dorm room. While he loved FSU, the school was a long way from home, and in an effort to make some friends in the area; he’d brought his 2-meter HT with him.
It was late on a Sunday evening and he’d participated in the local ARES net a short time before, but feeling a little bit blue and homesick, he put his call out on the air…
In a few moments, he received an answer…”How ya doin’ young man?…KAAY DEEE 4 VQS…
“Hi Uncle Ray…I’m fine” and the conversation moved on from there for about 10 minutes. I had passed my Tech test at that point, and had a radio in the car, but in those days, the gratification of a callsign was a wait of several months, rather than a few weeks, so I was held to being strictly a listener.
They talked about how school was going and the young man talked about missing his family and the older man listened and made the young man feel better about things. They signed as the youngster indicated he was heading to bed to get ready for another day of classes…”Uncle Ray” told him to let him know if he needed anything and said good night also…thus was my introduction to a man who was to become an important part in my life as well…Ray Prim….
Ray was born in Haileyville, Oklahoma on October11, 1921. He was quite a musician in his youth, playing a number of instruments, including the tuba. His parents were well enough off to actually buy him one, which made him a popular member of several bands in his area.
He mentioned one time that as his was the only tuba in town, he’d end up marching the parade route, and after completing that first pass, they’d put him in a car and rush him back to the beginning to march through again with the next band. In one case, he ended up marching through the same parade four times.
He attended the University of Oklahoma and helped pay his tuition by working with a funeral home. In those days, paramedics and regular ambulances were unknown; the hearse provided ambulance duties when not being used for a funeral.
While he talked about picking up folks after car accidents and the like, it wasn’t until looking through some of his military paperwork later that I found out he’d also spent time doing more than that. He had enough qualifications to be a Funeral Director and also had studied enough to be an embalmer, a fact he never mentioned when we talked about it.
December 7th, 1941 was a day that changed Ray’s life forever. Caught up in the fervor of paying the Japanese back for the attack on Pearl Harbor, Ray signed up to be a Marine. Apparently, the large number of men signing up caused some paperwork glitches, and it was to be quite some time, March 11, 1942, before his enlistment was accepted.
He was sent to Hawaii to receive amphibious landing training, and talked a lot about how beautiful it was there. Finally embarking on a troop transport, he left the island with a massive fleet of ships with the purpose of taking possession of a place code-named “Workman Island.” We know now that the island in question was Iwo Jima…
Ray went ashore with the 4th Marine Division in the first wave, and they immediately had problems moving around on the black volcanic sand. The Japanese defenders waited for several more waves to land and start milling about before “getting restless” and opening fire as Ray described it.
His scrapbook has a letter written home to his parents about 2 weeks after the landing and he says:
“This is just another little note to let you know that I am OK. I feel swell and I am very happy to report that I haven’t had a scratch so far!
Guess HE is still with me. Getting pretty good chow, much better than I expected.”
I think we all know Ray had problems talking about his time on Iwo. Indeed in the letter he continues:
“ Have been getting a lot of mail. Should write you more often but can’t get used to losing my best buddies one minute and writing a cheerful letter the next…Would like to know what you have heard about Iwo Jima…Don’t think the newspapers could ever really describe the place…”
The first time we discussed this was just short of the one-year anniversary of the 911 attacks. It was the first time he had mentioned being a Marine to me. During our discussion, the comment that struck home most was that when his unit finally left the island and was again on an Attack Transport, they were taken into the galley for their first decent meal in over a month, and as he looked around at the faces, he realized that there was only a small handful of “original” men left from the landing a scant 30 days before….
The experience was bad enough that Ray suppressed most of his wartime memories and to the end, couldn’t really talk about anything in detail without breaking down.
After the war, Ray got back to the business of life and after marriage, started a family and had a son and two daughters. The marriage didn’t last, and Ray moved from Oklahoma into our area and for 27 years was a salesman for Grolier Encyclopedias.
When I met him through mutual friends, he was a bank courier and had gotten into Amateur Radio for company on his long drives around the panhandle. I’d usually talk to him on the way to work as he headed south, and again in the afternoon when we both were headed home.
He had a regular route of repeaters he followed and had friends to talk with for the whole trip. He asked several times for me to take a day off and ride with him so he could introduce me to those friends, and I regret that I never had the chance to do that.
There were a number of hams along that route that were pretty vocal about Ray’s daily trip through their area being the high point of their day.
His final position was as a medical courier and as that kept him in town, it was a standing “date” for me to meet Ray and Dan Moniz for lunch on Mondays. A few other hams joined us now and then, but as Ray often wore his “Iwo Jima Survivor” cap, other vets who were in the restaurant would stop by the table for a chat. Ray would always let them know we would be there the next week and would invite them to join in.
It wasn’t long before the Vets outnumbered Dan and me and the“Veteran’s Lunch”became Ray’s signature meal of the week. We moved the “Ray-Dan-Mike” lunch to another day
It was during those lunches that Ray indicated he had been feeling a bit under the weather and was attending a nutrition class with the hope that eating better would lead to feeling better.
We also noticed about this time that his clothes were ever more loose fitting and he joked about opening more holes in his belt because it was too big now. At first, Dan and I assumed Ray’s weight loss was due to the “better diet” he was eating now because of the class….
Myelofibrosis is a rare blood disease where the bone marrow begins deteriorating into scar tissue and thus loses its ability to manufacture blood cells. The patient becomes anemic and weak and this was the cause for Ray being chronically tired.
The only regimen for stabilizing the problem was blood transfusions, and was followed by worse news…his condition would deteriorate and was not correctable.
Ray took the news with the same characteristic calm he displayed in those wartime letters he’d written home and as always, turned to his faith…”If this is the path God wants me to travel…this is the way I’ll go.”
He continued to work for a while, but as the need for transfusions came more and more often, he was forced to retire for good. In the meantime, I no longer worked in Tallahassee, and didn’t get by to see him as often as I’d have liked. Dan did keep up with him, but since I didn’t see him as often, it was more obvious to me that he was in an ever-quickening decline.
On one of those visits to his house (he wasn’t able to drive anymore) I noted a small wooden box on top of his TV, with a red Marine Corps medallion on the front. Though I didn’t say anything, he noticed my quick glance at it and said…
“How do you like my bird house?”
I already knew it was a case for a cremation urn, but let him explain it anyway. He went through what his arrangements would be and that his final resting place would be at the military cemetery in Bushnell.
As he talked, my mind was racing through why he’d want to have this on his TV where he would have to look at it every day…and it occurred to me that Ray had accepted what was in store for him and this was a simple testimony to his friends saying “I know what’s coming and I’m OK with it…”
The last time I visited, I took Joe Carroll along with me. Joe had also been in on the Iwo Jima landing and he and Ray enjoyed conversations about how it was back then.
Ray surprised us both when he cornered Joe pretty vocally about whether he had his will and final arrangements completed. I also noted that the “Bird House” was no longer on the TV….
Joe and I were both caught a bit off guard, and we lapsed into silence and let Ray talk.
He was upset because no one wanted to talk to him about what we all knew was getting very close and he couldn’t understand why when he was not only comfortable with it, but wanted to discuss it.
Joe finally said, “ I’m not planning on checking out right now, I’m taking exercise classes so I can get back on the golf course.” That made Ray laugh, and we seized the chance and quickly moved the discussion elsewhere.
Clay Copeland, a young neighbor from across the street came in about that time to tell Ray he was heading home for Thanksgiving. Clay, an FSU student, lived in a house his family had rented to keep he and his sister from having to stay in the dorm.
We found out then that Clay had been staying with Ray from time to time, to give Ted Srygley, a friend from downstate, a rest. Ted was the son of a friend of Ray’s, and had known him since childhood. Ted simply wanted Ray to be able to remain at home where he’d be more comfortable.
The young man told Ray he was sorry about leaving and said if Ray needed him to stay in town, he’d forego his trip home. Ray assured him that he would rather Clay head home to be with his family over the holidays. As they talked and said their goodbyes, I was reminded of that first conversation I’d listened to so many years ago…
It was that afternoon (Friday) that Dan and I came up with the idea of a net honoring Ray that Sunday night. We were a little concerned about how it would be taken, as nothing of this nature had ever been done before. But knowing he didn’t have long, and throwing caution to the winds, we moved ahead…
Ray wasn’t able to get close enough to his own radio to operate, and Alan, W1ABT, volunteered to go by and help him.
The net went as well as it could with Ray’s weakened condition, and had a good number of vets and other friends who shared some memories and bade Ray farewell.
I had been a little worried that the net would come off somewhat morbid, but there was a warm spirit of friendship expressed, and though Ray was very emotional at the number of folks taking part, we heard later that he continued to talk about it for several days afterward.
I still feel sorry for Alan though, as he had to go through an emotional roller coaster that night that left him shook up for a while.
Ted sent pictures afterwards taken during the net, and it was shocking to see how far Ray had gone down in the two days since I’d seen him. Ted had also been the one to remove the “Birdhouse” from plain view.
He lasted until the following Friday, which was the day after Thanksgiving. A number of friends, including Dan, were at his side that afternoon when the end finally came. At Ray’s request, they read to him from his Bible.
The funeral service in Bushnell took place on December 11th, and was well attended. A Marine Honor Guard fired volleys followed by a bugler playing Taps. The assembly area was in a small stand of trees and though it was winter, the weather wasn’t bad. Before us on the platform was a beautiful arrangement of flowers, a properly folded American flag…and Ray’s “Bird House”…
Ray had mentioned once that rather than a funeral, he’d rather that we’d get together at a restaurant somewhere and lift a glass in his honor. In a curious coincidence, the mourners all ended up at the same restaurant following the service, and we did exactly that…
It’s been odd in the months since then, not to hear that familiar call sign pop up on the repeater from time to time, as well as not seeing the Sunday evening emails reminding “his Vets” that it was time for another Monday lunch…
Such were the good works that Ray accomplished in uniting an ever-growing circle of friends.
I have numerous good memories of things he did through the years, like driving his motor home to hamfests to give his friends a place to rest for a few minutes and have a cup of coffee. I also remember when he helped an elderly ham who lived just down the street deal with the loss of his wife, and then provide support as best he could when the man, who was also very sick, passed on shortly thereafter…one thing about Ray…he was ALWAYS there for his friends.
He usually started our lunches by asking what I was working on club wise and told me more than once that he didn’t see how I kept up with everyone and everything…I just smiled back at him and said “I’m just following the example set by an old friend…”
Ray showed us all the proper way to live, and then how to face death on your own terms with resolve, dignity, and humility before your maker.
There is a void left since his passing, and I’m curious to see if indeed time will heal the wound. I don’t think it will. We all miss you Ray…