Ham Radio

Silent key

[Thursday: 3 miles; Today: 5 miles]

A few years back I splurged for the lifetime membership in the ARRL, the ham radio national membership body in the United States.

Every month I get a copy of QST magazine in the mail.

I usually read QST starting from the back. Most of the back 1/3 or so is advertisements. While paging along, back to front, one of the first interesting things I encounter is the Silent Key page.

In ham radio lingo a silent key is someone who died. Their morse code sending device (key) is silent. The same term is used for hams who don’t do morse code.

Usually the list is three full columns on one page. I scan for people in particular states: IA, CO, MS, AL, and see if I may have known them. I’ll go quite a while without seeing any. Although I have been interested in ham radio for a long time, I don’t do a lot with clubs and organizations. In addition, my memory for names is not that good and a lot of hams I have known only by first name and callsign.

But this month they listed Gerald Johnson K0CQ of Ellsworth, Iowa. When I was a student at Iowa State in the early/mid 1980’s I ran into him frequently, particularly as part of Army MARS (Military Affiliate Radio Service) which did message handling for overseas service men and women.

He was an interesting guy, as you can see if you read that obituary I linked to; I didn’t know he was a musician.