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K9EL BIOGRAPHY

I was born in Oak Park, IL just a stone's throw from the Chicago city limits.  So, I am a "city" kid and have always enjoyed the hustle and bustle of the big city.  This would prove valuable later in life as I traveled major cities of the world.   I had a good childhood with a good home and a good family.   In Boy Scouts I became interested in the Morse Code and taught myself the code.   I built a small code practice oscillator, but since I didn't know any hams, I had no way to get a Novice license.   I used to go to the library and always read "So you want to be a ham".   After Boy Scouts, I began to lose interest in ham radio.   While in the 8th grade, a new student had just transferred to our school and we ended up sitting across from each other.  It turned out he was a ham!   Paul, at that time K9ATB, was just what I needed to rekindle my interest in ham radio.  In a few months, I was licensed as WN9ELV.  

One weekend I visited my grandfather who had a Hallicrafters S-40.   He was not a ham, but was always interested in hams and SWL-ing.  I was thrilled to be able to tune the bands.  I told him I had my license, but no equipment.   He gave me his trusted S-40 on the spot!   I still have it today.  My first transmitter was a homebrew 6L6 with a random wire and no tuner.  At that time, I had no idea what an SWR bridge was!  I was able to work Paul (about 8 blocks away) and W9DWQ (also 8 blocks away).  I saved up money from my paper routes and soon bought a Knight-Kit T-60.   Wow!   I was now able to work around the midwest.  I ordered QSL cards and soon was anxiously watching the mailbox for new QSLs.

In High School we had a very active radio club, due mainly to my real ham radio mentor, Father Robinson, W5QXS, who just recently passed away.   I soon upgraded to General and bought a used HyGain TH3Jr and installed it on the chimney of my parents house.   I was quite interested in DX-ing, but with 60 watts and a small yagi at 20 feet, DX did not come too often.   I added an external VFO to the T-60 along the way.

Like many young men of the day, once I turned 16, my thoughts were on girls, cars, football and food (not necessarily in that order!).   I let ham radio slip to the back burner.   Once in college, my interest was rekindled and I upgraded to a Heath SB102.   This was like driving a Rolls Royce after my T60 and S40!   My buddy Paul went into the marines and was a radio operator, so we used to meet on 80m at 1am and ragchew into the wee hours.   I even got the mobile bug and bought a Heath 40m monobander for the car and participated heavily in MIDCARS (around 1970-71).

After college, I met my future wife and we were soon married.   Now that I was a bit more settled, I got into ham radio and DX-ing.   I bought an SB200 (still have it!) to supplement the SB102.   Of course I was living in an apartment and got my first taste of TVI complaints!   Soon, though, we bought our first home, and when I saved some money to buy a used 40 foot tower.  I thought I was on top of the DX world!   600 watts and a tribander at 40 feet!  wow!

After 4 years, we moved into a bigger home, and, of course, a bigger tower.   A 70 foot Rohn 45 tower sprouted with a big mast and monbanders for 10, 15 and 20.   The HyGain 4 element 20m monobander to me is still the best antenna I ever owned!   After a few years, I got the itch to DX on 40, so I changed out the monobanders for a TH7 and added a 2 element HyGain 40m yagi.   Wow!   40 meters suddenly sounded like 20m.   I was working DX - and I was DX!   I received tons of QSL card requests from EU and JA.   I eventually added a WARC rotary dipole from Cushcraft to get on the WARC bands.  Of course, I went through a number of rigs and am currently using a Kenwood TS990.   I am still very fond of the Kenwood TS930, but that damn digital board just kept failing on me, so I dumped it.    In 2013, I changed to a SteppIR DB18E which is what I use today.

After getting married I worked for one year for Heath Company.  That was fun, but it was obvious that Heath was going a different direction, so I put my University of Illinois engineering degree to better use and started at Motorola in 1973.   I ended up staying there for 29 years!   I took an early retirement package in 2002.   Next I went to work for a small Canadian startup, and spent much of time in Canada, where I am licensed as VA3CDX.   We sold the company in May of 2005, so I started my consulting practice - John Sweeney and Associates.  (www.johnsweeneyllc.com)  But, in 2006, I was recruited to work for Bell Canada and moved to the Toronto area and was mainly operating as VA3CDX (www.k9el.com/va3cdx).  In late 2010, I retired from Bell.  My wife and I relocated back to the Chicago area in 2013.  I am now fully retired and enjoying life to the fullest.

I have been married for 43 years with a wonderful son and daughter-in-law and one very beautiful grand daughter!

That's my story!

 

last updated aug2015