Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Final Fling with KL7RA

All credits to Wigi AL7IF and Rich's XYL Jyl for supporting one last hoorah for KL7RA on the air.  

The team converged on Kenai on Good Friday from literally around the globe.  Ed K3PN flew in from South Africa via Denver, in a blizzard.  Others converged from points around Alaska to re-connect, make new friendships, and memorialize Rich in the best possible way.   Wigi and Angela came down from Anchorage several days before to prepare.  The Kenai crew of AL2F, KL2HD, and KL8X were there for the duration, as were KL7SB, WL7BDO, and N1TX. Dan KL1JP flew down from Fairbanks for two hours operating on Saturday, cut short by weather delays. Corliss AL1G showed up noon-ish Sunday and worked the final four hours on 20. 

You can find Wigi's summary here on 3830: http://3830scores.com/showrumor.php?arg=5EaEz8gcfssv8 

It pretty well sums up the great emotions we all shared by activating KL7RA one last time.  

The gravity didn't really start hitting home with me until 1200Z Sunday.  I had avoided focusing on it.  I was working the overnight shift with WL7BDO on 20 and chipping away at 160m.  Rich was always THE top band guy, and there I was at the position with his hat and glasses in front of me.  I answered a call, and another fine op gave me the exchange and said what a wonderful thing it was we were doing.

Then I moved over to 40m.  As long as I knew him, Rich had an autographed photo of Joe Rudi NK7U in his Oakland A's uniform, and it was on the wall right in front of me.  I heard NK7U around 1400Z and called.  It took quite a few times yelling back and forth to finally get through.  "KL7?"  "KL7A?" back and forth.  When he finally got the RA, there was an awkward pause.  The band gods cooperated long enough to clear the freq.  The op (not Joe) and I had a brief conversation, both of us very, very moved.  I fought the tears.  I couldn't do anymore and went to bed.

After the contest was over, we went upstairs and shared a few Rich stories, then Skyped with Rich's widow Jyl.  She was in Indiana.  We offered a toast, and let me tell you, there wasn't a dry eye in the house.  The remainder of the evening was spent celebrating a remarkable life and legacy.  It was a memorial I will never forget.  

With Gary AL9A now gone as well as Rich, those of us remaining have more incentive to get KL on the air.  There will be no more huge beacon like KL7RA, but we can try to hold a candle in the cold and dark left behind.