Amateur radio club loses founder at 67
Pueblo West resident Bill Ewing had decades of experience with amateur radios and had the opportunity to share much of what he knew, as well as make an impact in the local community.
Ewing died last week at age 67.
Ewing started the Pueblo West Amateur Radio Club four years ago, and other club members say his impact on the community and his friends was profound.
“Bill was a really fine person. A great mentor who was willing to help anybody when it came to anything,” said Paul Sipes, current president of the club.
“He was an excellent mentor for anybody that needed help.
“He will be a club member for life and will always be with us.”
Ewing was an amateur radio, or “ham radio” operator for 49 years. During his life, he racked up statistics that other amateur radio operators “only dream about,” Sipes said.
Included in that is, through his radio, he contacted every county in the United States – more than 3,100 of them. Equally impressive, Ewing contacted 202 countries throughout the world, and received confirmation back from 184.
“One of the things we operators do for fun is to see how many countries we can contact,” said Jim McConnell, vice president of the group. “Hopefully, we’ll get a reply back.
“It’s just something that we do, and to get confirmation back from 184 … wow.”
However, Ewing didn’t just use his amateur radio license for fun. He felt it was important to get involved during emergencies, which radio communication can be extremely helpful. Like so many in the club, he was part of ARES – American Radio Emergency Services.
“A lot of times during emergencies like fire, the first thing to go down is cell phones,” said Sipes. “So that’s where ham operators help.”
He said that Ewing was one of several local operators to help during last year’s Waldo Canyon fire.
Amateur radio operators were stationed at places like shelters, where they could report back to a control center at a police or sheriff department and help pass information back and forth.
“Through ARES, we work with Red Cross, Salvation Army, local fire, police and sheriff and if there’s an emergency, most of us have the capability to pick up our equipment and just go where the problem is and help,” explained Sipes.
Members of the Pueblo West club have also helped out locally with the Liberty Point 5K run on July 4, placing operators up and down the route to provide instant communication for anyone who might need assistance.
Sipes, one of the founding members of the club, recalled how he met Ewing and how the Pueblo West club got started. He had recently attended a field day in Pueblo – an exercise in which amateur radio operators from throughout the world get together at the same time to “practice” for emergencies by contacting as many other people as possible. Though they didn’t know each other then, Sipes and Ewing were both involved in the local event that day.
“I got a postcard in the mail from Bill a couple of weeks later and it had his call sign on it,” Sipes said. “He was inviting everybody in Pueblo West that was a ham to come and possibly start a new club.”
Approximately 15 people showed up, and the club was born. Four years later, there is an active membership of nearly 50 members, and before his death, Ewing worked hard to get youth interested and involved and keep amateur radio operation growing.
“He was the spark plug that got us going,” Sipes said of Ewing and the club.