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Zero Bias – A CQ Editorial

“A Lasting Legacy”


*e-mail: w2vu@cq-amateur-radio.com

Bill Pasternak, WA6ITF (SK)

A trip back in time: Bill Pasternak, WA6ITF (SK), right, presents the 2005 Newsline Young Ham of the Year Award to then 12-year-old Rebekah Dorff, WG4Y. Also on hand for the presentation was 2004 YHOTY winner Andrea Hartlage, KG4IUM, at left. The 2015 YHOTY presentation will be this month at the Huntsville Hamfest. (Photo by Dan Moseson, KC2OOM)

One of the great things about hobbies is that they give us an alternate universe in which to showcase our talents, provide leadership, and make a lasting contribution to something we feel passionate about. Ham radio is particularly good at that because it is, by nature, a social activity, and as a result, we have a high level of organization and our own micro-society, complete with its own language, rules, and leaders.

Bill Pasternak, WA6ITF, who became a Silent Key in early June, was one of those leaders. In his daily life before he retired, Bill was a broadcast engineer for a Los Angeles television station. Mostly, he fixed tape machines. Bill was an expert at his job, and knew more about the equipment he worked on than just about anyone else I knew in the field (and I spent quite a while in TV myself before coming to CQ). He also had a ham’s knack for using duct tape and chewing gum to get something working again until he was able to make a proper repair. And keeping tape machines (and now digital recording and playback devices) running is essential to keeping a TV station running, so there is no question that Bill’s job was important. But in the TV world, he was one of many highly-skilled technicians, and in TV, it is highly unusual for anyone “on the other side of the camera” to get much of any recognition beyond his or her immediate circle of co-workers (although Bill did win a local Emmy award in 1984 for his contributions to the station’s local newscast).

In ham radio, though, Bill Pasternak was a star, known around the world. He was a self-trained journalist, filmmaker, and tireless promoter of youth in amateur radio. This hobby allowed Bill to shine in ways that simply were impossible in his professional life. Bill was co-founder of Westlink Report — the first newscast-style audio news service in amateur radio — as well as its successor, Amateur Radio Newsline, which he served as Producer until his passing. He was also a magazine columnist for over two decades, writing for 73, WorldRadio, and WorldRadio Online.

Bill is the only person ever honored by the Dayton Amateur Radio Association with both its Special Achievement Award (1981) and its Amateur of the Year Award (1989). He is also a 2004 inductee into the CQ Amateur Radio Hall of Fame.

Back in the 1980s, I was working at CBS News and became friends with another ham who worked there, Steve Mendelsohn (SK), then WA2DHF, who was very active in ARRL affairs (he later became ARRL Hudson Division Director and First Vice President). Steve introduced me to Bill, who was in the process of producing “The New World of Amateur Radio,” one of the many promotional films and videos that he produced or co-produced.

Bill corralled me into going to Washington to direct the shooting of a video segment on Capitol Hill with Ohio Senator and former Astronaut John Glenn (never a ham but always a strong supporter of amateur radio) at the Senate’s ham station, W3USS. Here, once again, ham radio was providing me with an opportunity I wasn’t getting at work — the program I worked on relied entirely on library footage for its video, and we never did our own shooting — and it gave me the foundation I needed a few years later when I started working on another program that did involve “field producing.”

This was typical of Bill — using ham radio to help other people expand their professional skills — as I was far from the only person to get this type of benefit through my association with him. That trip marked the beginning of a three-decade long professional and personal relationship with Bill, often characterized by Sunday afternoon phone calls in which we’d spend an hour or so solving all of ham radio’s (and thus the world’s) problems … If only everyone else was so sensible!

It was also in the mid-’80s that some of us who had been licensed as teenagers in the 1960s and early ’70s began to worry about where the next generation of new hams would come from. After all, there was so much new competition for kids’ attention, from things like video games and those newfangled computer thingies. A lot of people just wrung their hands and complained. Bill was one of the few who actually did something.

In 1986, Bill started the Newsline Young Ham of the Year award to recognize and highlight the achievements of hams under age 19. For nearly 30 years, Bill has been instrumental in recruiting new young hams by showcasing the accomplishments of their peers. CQ is proud to have been a corporate co-sponsor of the YHOTY program nearly since its beginning, and I have personally been honored to be a member of the judging committee for nearly 20 years. As I have said here many times before, seeing the nominations that cross my desk each year leaves me very confident in the future of our hobby.

One other note about Bill … regardless of his influence within ham radio, Bill was always unpretentious. He was responsible for my first trip to Dayton, when we both slept on the floor at the house of a friend of his. Each year’s YHOTY presentation at the Huntsville Hamfest is capped off by a dinner for the winner and his/her family. The choice of restaurant has always been what the winner wanted, often leading us to a great barbecue place or once, to Five Guys for burgers and fries! I have no idea where Bill might have wanted to eat, because that never mattered. It was all about the kids … always.

It was Bill’s foresight that led to the creation of YHOTY, and all of us who are involved with it are committed to keeping the program alive and vibrant as a way to honor his memory. All of us who knew Bill will miss him greatly, as I’m sure will many of you whose only association with WA6ITF was occasionally hearing his voice on Newsline. But he will continue to live on through the Young Ham of the Year program, which will be Bill Pasternak’s lasting legacy to amateur radio.

A Bit of Housekeeping

A couple of notes on the magazine and some staff news. Hopefully, you’ve noticed that the print editions are starting to show up at the beginning of the cover month rather than the end, as our concerted effort to get back on schedule continues. Our goal is to be back on our regular schedule no later than the end of this year, and we are well on our way to achieving it.

Congratulations to Associate Editor Jason Feldman, who decided at Ham-Com in Texas to try taking his license exam. We are pleased to report that he not only passed his test but, because of the onsite presence of the W5YI-VEC group, the test session’s paperwork was able to be filed immediately and everyone who passed that day knew their callsigns before leaving the show. Jason is now KD2IWM.

Finally, we welcome Dennis Lazar, W4DNN, as Interim QRP Editor. His first column, which started out as a feature reminiscing about his 50 years of low-power operating, appears in this issue. Dennis is taking on the column on an interim basis to make sure that it doesn’t get in the way of his primary “job” of traveling around the country with his wife in their RV. Of course, he has a QRP rig aboard. If you’re a QRP devotee who’d be interested in writing a bi-monthly column on your favorite part of ham radio, get in touch with either Dennis or me … just in case he finds that column-writing and cross-country traveling don’t comfortably co-exist. Meanwhile, please be sure to let Dennis know about any cool stuff you’re doing with 5 watts or less. – 73, Rich W2VU

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