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Charles Heilman (N6AM)
Charlie was a ham's ham. When I was a teenager he sent a huge box of parts to help me get on the air. Although I never met him in person, he was my second cousin. I had several on air QSO's with him before he became a silent key. What a great encouragment he was to a boy on a farm in Kansas trying to get started in Ham radio.
Contributed by: Lauren D. Libby (W0LD)
I was surprised and happy to see this post by Lauren, W0LD.
I grew up across the river from Charlie Heilman's house in the country south of Kingsburg California. In those days he was WB6GJG, "WB6 Golden Juicy Grapes." Later he became W6HKV and the trustee of our high school radio station, and then N6AM when vanity callsigns were first issued.
In 1964 my friend Rick and I were in junior high and rode the school bus past Charlie's house every day. We were both interested in Radio and noticed the red and white tower next to Charlie's house behind Heilman's Grocery, his family's business. We rang his bell one day, and that began a friendship that lasted until his passing in 1986. Charlie became a second father to me and later an honorary grandfather to my kids. I was executor of his estate at his passing, and my wife Shirley KD6DJD and I cared for his second wife Jessie until she passed a few years later.
Charlie was a WW2 veteran who worked on the top secret RADAR at it's inception. After the War he developed a serious heart condition and was retired on disability by the time I met him. He was a prolific builder of radio equipment with lots of junk box parts and a very large workshop. He bought me my first transmitter at a local hamfest and let me pay it off by mowing his lawn when I was 14. We rebuilt that Viking 1 together in his shop. He was an absolutley amazing man who dedicated the rest of his life to teaching Radio and electronics to boys like me, Rick and approximately 20 others that I know. I didn't know about Lauren, so there may be many others. Rick is NJ5W now, I'm AD6W, all of that group became licensed Hams, and over half became engineers or techs. I could tell you stories about the military and civilian systems these "boys" were involved with over the years. It's safe to say Charlie Heilman has had a huge impact on the lives of many people through his ham radio elmering activities, and I personally owe him a debt I can never repay. He was closer than a friend, and I miss his wit and enthusiasm all the time even though he left us nearly 22 years ago. My wife and I decorate the graves of veterans in our family every Memorial Day, and this year we stopped at Charlie's as usual, but had our children and grandchildren with us. When my 11 year old granddaughter asked who Charlie was, I took great pleasure in telling her about the adopted great-grandfather she never knew. She and her 10 year old brother are studying for their ham licenses this summer. Sincerely, Larry Esau, AD6W
Contributed by: Larry Esau (AD6W)
We were thinking of Charlie just today and I was happy to see the nice write up that Larry did. Charlie really mentored both of us in both ham radio and life. He became more like a father to me than I ever knew. Always there to provide advice to me when I needed it. Some what ironic that I ended up working on top secret radar systems later in life. We have lots of good memories and stories about Charlie and the many good things he did for both Larry and I plus many others. I just hope I can some day bea as good a mentor to some one as he was to us.
Contributed by: R Reynolds (NJ5W)
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