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"Celebrate Life" Runner and Chicago Ham Bring Music To Armenia

04/04/2008

In 2003, I celebrated my 60th birthday and recovery from cancer by running some 880 miles -- and giving concerts along the way across the American Midwest. Celebrate Life Run was documented extensively both on my Web site and on the ARRLWeb.

I carried with me both APRS to track my position and a four-band handheld for the nearly four-and-one-half months on the road. I spoke almost constantly to radio amateurs along the highways between my starting point in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and the finish line in Zion, Illinois.

While passing through Chicago, I ran into (on the Chicago FM Club repeater) Jerry Migely, WA9KXZ. An invitation followed to visit and try Jerry and his wife's (Lorraine Granieri, a gifted artist and pianist) new Steinway model "B" concert grand. It had just been purchased from Steinway Hall in New York and personally autographed by one of the Steinway brothers.

Several evenings later we met both for dinner at the Sears Tower and for a small concert I gave on the new Steinway at Jerry's home. We were joined by Phil Amato, N9PA, a past president of the Chicago FM Club. For some months after my run was finished, Jerry and I kept in touch by EchoLink. We then lost touch for several years until I suddenly received an e-mail from Jerry. I was saddened to learn that Lorraine had lost her battle with the same disease I had been so lucky to overcome. Jerry told me that there was shortly to be a memorial exhibition of Lorraine's art works at the Art Guild of Burlington, Iowa. I asked Jerry if a memorial concert at this exhibition would be in order, and we quickly agreed to arrange two concerts in Burlington.

An Idea Takes Shape

Jerry and I had a long time to talk while traveling in his car between Chicago's O'Hare and Burlington. Of course we spoke about our dream Amateur Radio stations, impossible antenna designs -- the best of ham talk. Slowly, the conversation turned to other matters. Jerry told me that he wanted Lorraine's piano to be donated to a worthy cause; that she had wanted it to be in a place where it would be appreciated, played and cared for. We reached no conclusion on this until about a month later-when on the telephone we almost simultaneously thought of donating the piano to the Alan Hovhaness International Research Centre in Yerevan, Armenia. I am one of the coordinators of this center, which we are building to honor the Armenian-American composer Alan Hovhaness.

This was immediately agreed -- and we then decided to schedule a dedication concert on the piano at Jerry's Chicago home. Invited to the concert were representatives of the Amateur Radio community, representatives from the Chicago Armenian community, friends of the composer Alan Hovhaness and friends who had hosted me during my marathon run. Ann Lousin, representing the Armenian General Benevolent Union, gave us a moving introduction, telling us of the dedication to music in Armenia; how even after the great Armenian earthquake when homes were reduced to rubble, students still arrived at the music conservatory to take their piano lessons. A report of this concert is available.

Two days after the concert, the piano was moved out to be crated for shipment to Yerevan. I will be visiting Yerevan for concerts on April 22 and 26. The concert on April 26 will be in Aram Katchaturian Hall together with the Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra. We will be dedicating the Steinway piano. Jerry Migely, WA9KXZ, will be coming to Yerevan from Chicago to attend the concert. While there, we hope to have the opportunity to meet with Armenian radio amateurs and visit their stations.

Martin Berkofsky, KC3RE



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