Amateur Radio Operator passes on
By Donald A. De Riggs
I write to salute a fallen soldier … Amateur Radio operator, avid table tennis player, driver instructor, Large-Haul Trucker … breaking the list to fast forward to, caring father and loving husband. That is how I describe Walter Richards, a long standing family friend and personal friend.
It is with sadness I witnessed his slow demise, never once fretting to me about his condition, but clearly letting me know what he was going through. Yet despite the writing on the wall, he continued with his cheerful demeanor, Helen as a constant angel by his side. About roughly a month ago I heard his voice over the airwaves for the last time, calmly greeting all the listeners and wishing them well. Little did I know that that would be his last ‘73’ over the airwaves.
My first drive instructor was Walter, as I got to know him and his family as we attended the same church, other members recommending him as a great tutor, and a great instructor he was. Early in the training he taught me how to reverse and I remember reversing in his small Hilman Imp from where KFC Arnos Vale is located almost a half mile going up Queens Drive, that was a lesson well learnt… I had sufficient practice during that lesson, so much so, that it made driving forward appear so easy after that… needless to say I was successful in passing the road test.
I must confess that I never won a set while playing tennis with Walter, when I worked out with him and others at the AVESCO tennis house. He was indeed the Knight of the Green Table earning the national Senior Champ title on several occasions. He wasn’t just good, he was great and loved the sport. Many newcomers would underestimate his quiet demeanor and end up getting an under-10 to their surprise. When we were warming up, we would rally for several minutes without the ball leaving the board and that is the type of tennis I love and what he enjoyed. Walter was the gentleman in everything he did and even when defeating his many opponents never bragged about his skill on the green table.
In his trucking business he was punctual, and his truck was always clean and well painted. Whenever his truck was parked on the ETJ apron, you knew that Amerijet wasn’t far away. There are other persons who can attest to his efficiency in the trucking business. And I can’t remember ever hearing of Walter getting into an accident.
However, it was Amateur Radio (Ham radio) that really cemented our friendship and that of many radio amateurs locally and across the region in the last two decades or more, the Helen-Walter combination was always the looked forward to ‘norm’, as whenever Helen checked in first during our local and regional radio networks, Walter would follow and vice versa. They were the only active husband-wife combination throughout the Caribbean. The following regional Hams asked that their condolences be expressed to his family 8P6JB-Ron, J69B-Bernard, KC2ADI-Tony, V44KBP-Terry, J39JT-Peter,9Y4HW-Harry,J39JF-Joy & J39JX-Floyd.
As radio amateurs we often assist each other with the setting up of antennas, so from time to time we would visit his home to assist with climbing roofs, running cables and erecting or dismantling antennas when storms were threatening our country. We never left his house without some fruit presented by either Helen or Walter.
As a Christian believer, I do not fear for Walter’s soul … absent from the body, present with the Lord. So while we will miss his companionship, I am personally happy that the following scripture rings true that ‘precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his Saints’ – Psalms 116:15.