Ralph Drew Kelley - W8GFG
November 26, 1941 - March 1, 2011
Here is a tribute to a very loved ham operator that helped many and was a friend to all.
From Tim Duffy K3LR:
Several NCC members have operated Field Day from the hill top on Rutledge Road in Transfer, PA under the callsigns W8GFG/3, W3VK and then K3LR. Guys like K8CX, N3RA, K8MR, AF3P, K8AZ, K3LA, K8NZ, N8AA, K3LA, K3MMM, AC8E, K8CC, WA3WIK, WA3BBJ (W3JL), K8CCV, WB3EUB, K3UA, W3YQ (KL7WV) and even a 16 year hot shot CW op who drove to WPA from Missouri, Jeff, N0AQK - the same guy that went on to win three WRTC gold medals (and holds the CQWW single op WORLD records on both modes) - known today as N5TJ.
1972 was my first Field Day and my first ever contest. W8GFG was a radio rock star to this 12 year old skinny Novice. I (WN3SZX) was honored to be operating in the same farm shed while Drew did 75 meters right beside me. Many of Drew's friends would say that he was monoband 75 - at all times.
So many things happened to me on that hill top - that Drew encouraged me to be a part of. My love for contesting - dating the blonde farmer's daughter across the street (love and great QTH's go together!) - being at the top of a 40 ft tower when it fell (I was 16) which could have ended really bad if not for WA3WIK saving my life that day (and 5 days in the hospital). 30 days later - stitches were out - I was up on a 350 ft tower with Glen, WA3BBJ.
Drew loved Amateur Radio - but he was "in love" with 75. You know it when you see it. Drew was the first guy to teach me about contesting, even letting me stumble through working a few guys with his HeathKit HW-12 on 75 SSB - that magic weekend in June of 72'.
Drew was the first guy to take me to Dayton when I was 14. All of you know how I feel about Dayton - a place where all of our friends are and will always be.
Tom, K8CX knew Drew very well and they operated contests together many years before I was licensed.
Tom brought Drew over to see a K3LR multi multi contest operation in action a few years ago - I told him "Look what you started" - as I always thought that multi multi was just a W8GFG Field Day with amplifiers. Drew told me how proud he was of the "fire" he lit in 1972.
We hugged - I cried then and again now - that he is gone. K8CX and I were on the phone last night for over an hour - with the awesome W8GFG memories.
This weekend's DX contest, ARRL DX Phone, March 5, 6, 2011, at K3LR is dedicated to the memory of Drew, W8GFG.
Seems very appropriate that I'll
be on 75 meters - I know he'll be there - hope you think of Drew
this weekend too.
RIP W8GFG SK
From Glen Clark W3JL:
Drew had a 1965 GTO that I almost bought from him in 1970. He and I connected through other friends who were gear heads. Back before the Emlenton Bridge was finished, the stretch of I-80 east of the Route 8 exit was technically "closed". But an enterprising group of guys looking for a long, straight piece of concrete with no traffic had no trouble getting around the orange barricades. Because it wasn't opened, the State police did not patrol it. I know... hard to imagine a time when I-80 wasn't open yet... Sharon legends like Billy Quinn, Mickey Dipretta and others would go out and make a few bucks by making black marks on that fresh concrete. The total crowd on any night was usually 20 to 30 people. There were usually about 8 racers, including Drew, and a dozen or more observers. It really, really was a scene straight out of the movie American Graffiti.
Drew was always sad that they
closed the Sharon GATX. The good news was that GATX liked him
enough to offer him a job in the corporate headquarters in
downtown Chicago when they closed Sharon. So he wasn't out of a
job. But the bad news was that he didn't live near his family and
old friends any more. :(
From Tom Roscoe K8CX:
Drew worked with my father at GATX in Masury, OH. My father knew he was a ham. In 1963 at age 12, I passed my novice license. My father took me to Army's in downtown Youngstown and he bought me a receiver HQ129X. I tore an old TV set apart and made a cakepan transmitter running a watt or 2 on 40M. I made a few contacts but was mostly calling CQ. The 1st time I met Drew, he came over the house with a very shinny DX35 transmitter under his arm and gave it to me. I was in my glory. This rig put out 65 watts and I was working everything on the band. Drew became a life long best friend, mentor, and elmer. We did several fielddays and contests together. We build antennas, went to hamfests, hung out at various coffee houses together and had a very good long friendship until his death in 2011. I think of Drew often. He was liked by everyone he met. RIP my dear friend.
Drew Kelley W8GFG
QTH: Masury, OH
Photo dated Feb. 1967
Ohio QSO Party, hamshack of WA8KCX (now K8CX)
WA8UQS Phil Martin sk, K3SAN Bob Bell sk, W8GFG Drew Kelley sk, WA8HLN Frank Obermiyer sk.
1967 Photo taken by WA8KCX
Field Day June 24, 1973, Transfer, PA.
Top: WA8KCX (now K8CX), K3SAN sk, WA8LAR, WA8HJU (now AG8X).
Bottom: W8GFG sk, WN3SZX (now K3LR), WA3KLG ( K3MMM) sk.
Field Day 1973
Drew Kelley W8GFG
Tribute courtesy of K3LR, W3JL, K8CX
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