By: Joe Simpson K4SAR
Like any other institution, interest, or organization, Amateur Radio represents many different things to its varied participants: a focus for technical fascination; a medium for creativity and experimentation; a venue for sharing expertise; a way to serve others; a connection to friends, community, and the world. On the occasion of one local ham reaching the milestone of ten years in the hobby, here’s a look at his involvement with Ham Radio, and how it has enriched his life.
William Presley “Bill” Creery grew up in Memphis, Tennessee. In his early years he participated in public service through meeting the requirements of earning the rank of Eagle Scout in the BSA – which he was awarded in 2003. He also saw both of his sisters engaged in emergency services, as one was a member of a fire brigade on the Caribbean island of St. Croix and the other served on the rescue squad for Knox County, TN.
Bill sought a way to involve himself in the emergency services as well, even while meeting the challenges of several physical and neurological disabilities. Although legally blind, Bill was still able to read with much effort. His reading tutor found several articles on Ham Radio for him, and the content sparked a great interest in the subject. However, there was no support available locally to provide a way for Bill to follow through at the time.
In 2003, Bill and his family moved to Durham, NC. His social worker, learning of his strong interest in public and emergency service, helped Bill obtain a position volunteering with the Lebanon Volunteer Fire Department, a unit of Durham County Fire and Rescue located in northwest Durham. As Bill worked at the station, he enjoyed hearing the calls come over the squad’s radio system, so he got a scanner in order to keep up with the traffic when he was off duty at home. This fanned the spark of interest in Ham Radio, and Bill set his sights on obtaining a license.
He ordered the Gordon West books and tapes, and began studying. In the spring of 2006 Bill attended his first Ham Radio club meeting with the Orange County Radio Amateurs, and that June he participated in the club’s Field Day event and got on the air for the first time. By the end of that weekend Bill was, like so many of us after our first Field Day, thoroughly hooked on radio – and soon began making plans to attend the Handiham Radio Camp in northern Minnesota that August.
The Handham program (http://handiham.org) originated in 1967 with a small group in New York; eventually it took root in Minnesota and began growing nationally and internationally. In 1975 it was adopted as an official program of the organization now known as Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute. Its mission is to provide tools for people with disabilities to learn Amateur Radio and technology skills, and to earn their Amateur Radio licenses. With the help of the staff and volunteers at the Handiham camp in the town of Maple Lake, Bill studied hard, learned through hands-on experience how to operate, and passed the exam to earn his FCC Technician class license – callsign KI4RAN. As a licensed graduate of the Handiham program, Bill received his first transceiver: an Icom IC-V8 handheld radio.
As Bill became more involved with Amateur Radio, he continued learning and developing his skills. He returned to the Handiham camp in 2008 and again in 2009, when at the end of the session, on August 22, he passed the General class license exam. In June 2013, he once again traveled to northern Minnesota, this time to take a Handiham course in Operational Skills.
On the local front, Bill joined both OCRA and Durham FM Association shortly after the Handiham camp experience. Within the two clubs he found many friendly members who were eager to lend a hand in getting him started and who assisted him with programming his radio, learning how to use it, and setting up external antennas, among other things.
The primary KI4RAN station location is in an apartment, where external antennas are not allowed. So, Wayne Estabrooks KJ4GDW built and installed a 440MHz/70cm antenna in the attic (fortunately Bill is on the top floor!) along with a commercially-built 144MHz/2m antenna so that signals can reach a number of local repeaters and provide some good simplex coverage. Bill regularly visits his parents nearby in Durham, so Joseph Fields KF4QYY installed a 2m antenna in the attic of their house for use when Bill is there.
Lowell Tieszen KK4PH has provided much support with radio programming, station setup, troubleshooting, operating, and the like, as has Joe Simpson K4SAR. Bill has returned the favor by assisting with maintenance and enhancements to the K4SAR travel trailer used for the 15m/40m SSB OCRA/DFMA Field Day station, as well as serving as a regular operator of that station for many years. He has operated one station or another at Field Day every year since 2006.
Bill’s interest in meteorology has also played well into his Amateur Radio activities; he is a regular participant in weather nets and has for several years served as Weather Safety Officer for the Field Day events, where he monitors the weather situation and keeps the crew advised of any developing summer thunderstorms or other potentially dangerous weather conditions approaching.
Besides monitoring NOAA weather radio broadcasts, Bill uses several Internet weather tools to keep an eye on things. And, he enjoys using the various internet-based ham tools such as IRLP, Echolink, and Remote Bases. Windows accessibility features and software such as the JAWS (Job Access With Speech) screen reader help to compensate for Bill’s visual challenges.
Bill’s operating position in his apartment is neatly laid out with radios and computer within easy reach. He helped design a wooden mounting rack for his radios, power supply, microphones, and speakers, which his parents, Pres and Kitty Creery, built and finished in their garage workshop. This handy rack freed up much desktop space and allowed Bill to neatly organize power and antenna cables.
Currently, Bill’s fixed ham station comprises a Yaesu FT-1900 rig for VHF and a Tait model T2010 for 440MHz, both connected to a switching power supply. Nearby are a scanner for monitoring emergency service transmissions, and a custom fixed-frequency receiver to pick up the Triangle Radio Reading Service’s broadcast for the visually impaired (which is carried on an SCA subchannel of the WUNC-FM radio signal). For portable ham operation, Bill carries an Icom IC-T7H dual-band transceiver.
In addition to fire station and radio activities, Bill is involved in the Quilts of Valor Foundation (http://www.qovf.org/), which links those skilled in the art of quilt-making with military service members and veterans who are in need of healing and comfort. Bill and his mother work as a team to create quilt tops which are sewn into quilts by a volunteer in Wake Forest, and then given to veterans scarred by war. To date Bill and Kitty have completed 21 tops for quilts – one of which was presented to a local war veteran who is also an Amateur Radio operator.
Upon the 10th anniversary of his entry into the world of Ham Radio, Bill wishes to thank all of the ham operators who have stepped up to assist him with this wonderful hobby which has added so much enjoyment and meaning to his life – as well as the many hams who have gone before to build the foundations of what has become the state and art of Amateur Radio today. So, here’s a big, “Thanks, and 73!” from Bill, KI4RAN.
Author: Joe Simpson K4SAR