Tuesday, June 30, 2009


Don Jones is someone who probably would never been an acquaintance of mine had it not been for Amateur Radio. Outside of radio, we couldn't have been more different, but through our common interest, we shared common goals. Both Don and I were active in our respective county's Amateur Radio clubs and the Amateur Radio Emergency Service.

Our paths first crossed during Field Day in 2006. Even there, our stations couldn't have been more different. Don had set up the 75 meter station (3.5 MHz) while I had set up the 2 meter and 70 centimeter station (144 & 432 MHz). That year, VHF / UHF propagation was awful while the low bands were hot. Consequently, my station made the fewest, and his made the most. I was so happy to hear that Don was operating in West Virginia during this year's field day, most certainly doing something he enjoyed in his last hours.

One of the biggest ARES public service events in our area, the Hike Across Maryland, occurs every two years, and Don was a key part of the 2007 operation, and I was a first timer. My role was tough in one way, and Don's another. I only had to worry about operating for a short time, but in an area where radio signals are difficult to get out, while Don didn't have to worry much about his signal coverage, but had to be on the air for more than half the day having to bring his power source with him.

As his health declined, I we didn't see him as much, but he still made it to the occasional hamfest, and dinner meeting. The last big thing in my memory was when I took the FCC Amateur Radio Extra Class exam. He was part of the volunteer examiner team that gave me the test. I had taken one of the last exams before the Morse Code proficiency requirements were eliminated. Even though it wouldn't be required in less than a week, the VE team still brought the code testing equipment with them. I almost wanted to take it, but, well, I'd already passed it, and only needed the written exam to upgrade.

Those who don't know some of the traditions of Amateur Radio might not understand the title, Amateur Radio operators often refer to those who have passed away as silent keys, abbreviated SK. The prosign (a Morse Code thing) SK di di di dah di dah also means end of contact. Hams, as we are also known are issued licenses and call signs by the FCC, similar to that of your favorite TV station IE: WJZ, and Don's call sign was K8DSJ, with the DSJ being his initials.

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