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Jack Carlson (N3FZ)
September 25, 2005
(From the December 2005 issue of the WASHRag, newsletter of the Wireless Association of South Hills, Pittsburgh PA)
Most of you never had the honor of knowing Jack Carlson N3FZ. Jack was an on & off member of the club for the last few years (work at the Port Authority kept him from meeting nights), although you’d occasionally bump into him at a hamfest. A few club members, and other area amateurs, got to know Jack from his VHF and EME operating. But he just didn’t seem to be a “club” type of guy.
And that’s a real shame. Jack (who became a Silent Key after a long illness with cancer on September 25th) and I knew each other for a long time.
I first met Jack when I was a freshman at college (no, dinosaurs didn’t rule the earth then. Well, maybe Joe Paterno...) and had hooked up with the Penn State ARC K3CR. Jack was a senior, later coming back as a grad student. He was, without a doubt, one of the best CW operators I’d ever seen. You could be sitting in front of the S-Line, trying to copy an incoming message from a traffic net; Jack, standing behind you in one of his perpetual arguments with Bruce Long (now) KJ3Z, would break off in mid-conversation, turn around, and tell you what you had miscopied. Or he’d be the one at the rig, copying high speed code in his head while simultaneously monitoring you on the second station and arguing antennas with Bruce… and never miss a beat on any of the three simultaneous threads.
It was a standing joke (or was it?) that if he put his mind to it, Jack could copy 45 Baud RTTY in his head too.
Besides being an avid CW operator, Jack was a top-notch contester. If you ever go back to the records of his era, and look up all of the Atlantic Division certificates that K3CR won in the ARRL contests, season after season, you’ll see Jack’s fingerprints all over them.
Jack is one of the reasons I became a contester. At the end of my first set of finals, a handful of us stayed over the weekend to work the Sweepstates SSB. We operated K3CR, primarily from Dr. Les Hale W3LH’s shack at the Electrical Engineering East building. Jack was one of the people who taught me how to log, how to dupe (on paper), how to listen to a pileup, when to jump in, and how. When a couple of us rookies were sent back over to the K3CR shack to work the tough KL7 multiplier on 15, Jack (listening back at the main station a few blocks away, talking to us on 2 meters simplex) coached us on pointing the beam, being patient, listening to propagation moving East (based on the stations worked) and when to call. We got him on the first call — thanks to Jack.
As some of you may know, I was unlicensed for my first few years of college, after my Novice expired. Jack was always after me to work on my code and get my own ticket back, instead of always operating under the club call with a control op. Along with KJ3Z and WA3WAW, he worked with me on my code, even tried to give me my Tech once. But I barely missed one minute solid, and he wouldn’t budge — I had to do it right (and he was right, too).
Jack and I lost touch after we both left school, until we bumped into each other a few years ago at Breezeshooters and other hamfests. We managed to stay in touch from time to time, both at hamfests and on 75 phone (he used to ragchew with some locals just above 3800 kHz). I started to see him on a regular basis after I transferred to the Bethel Park, PA Home Depot #4176 (which is around the corner, literally, from his home). He used to tell me tales about his house-mate/ex-girlfriend, who hadn’t moved out of his house yet, and when she finally did, about all the stuff she took with her… about his mom, and some new appliances she needed… about the DX he’d recently worked on EME, which was always challenging because he didn’t have an az/el antenna setup, so he could only work the moon when it was on his horizon… and so forth. I met his brother a few times, and his teenage daughter once (smart kid, must get it from her dad)
After about a year, I didn’t see Jack for a long time. The next time I did, I was almost shocked. He’d lost a tremendous amount of weight, and looked thinner than he did in college. I knew immediately it could only be due to only one of two things… and sadly, it was his final illness taking it’s toll. Jack told me that he’d been undergoing a lot of chemo, and that they thought they had it under control. He was looking forward to getting his strength back and getting more active in Amateur Radio again — even trying to make a club meeting; of course, he was always telling me that.
The last time I saw him, at the end of August, he casually mentioned that he was going in for some tests, as they thought the tumors were back in his arm. He said it as casually as if he wanted to know if you preferred Coke or Pepsi with your sandwich. I think we both knew time was short. He promised to stop back in after he got out of the hospital, and let me know how things went. Right after that, though, I transferred to another store… and I never saw Jack again.
A lot of hams who knew Jack still don’t know that he passed, as he kept his illness quiet. Those of us who remember him are saddened at our loss.
I just wish most of you could have known him like I did.
Contributed by: Ron Notarius W3WN (WN3VAW)
Jack used to join our knucklehead group on 7168, but had not heard him on for at least the past year. He had health problems for many years. Sorry to see him go.
Contributed by: Ron Grandmaison (W4VR)
I realized only this evening that Jack passed nearly 3 years ago. I met Jack (on-air) when I was first getting into Meteor Scatter back in 2003. Due to the proximity of my house to my antenna in this covenanted neighborhood, I have a poor view to the east and northeast, making a meteor scatter qso to Pennsylvania difficult from here in Arkansas. After many attempts and schedules on Ping Jockey, we finally were able to conduct a 2 meter qso on FSK441. Jack was very helpful to me, the rookie, trying to figure out the HSMS world. I really appreciated his patience as he helped me work through the HSMS nuances. My own health problems have limited my on-air activity since 2004, although I continue to monitor Ping Jockey from time to time. I knew he had been sick and when I wasn't seeing his call on the screen any longer, I feared the worse. Even though we never met face-to-face, I knew he was a great guy. I wish I had known him longer.
Contributed by: David A. Judkins (KE5RV)
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