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Ellen White, W1YL, Silent Key, Devoted Lifetime to Amateur Radio and ARRL


Ellen White, W1YL, of Brandon, Florida, passed away on Saturday, November 5, 2022. She was 95. White became a radio amateur in 1946 and devoted over 75 years of her life to ham radio, including more than 25 years on the headquarters staff for ARRL  The National Association for Amateur Radio®. She retired in 1978 as Deputy Communications Manager and became the editor of the column “How’s DX?” for ARRL’s membership journal, QST. White was an ARRL Life Member and donor.

At its meeting in January 1978, the ARRL Board of Directors adopted a resolution recognizing White and her husband Robert (Bob) L. White, W1CW (SK), after having “completed a quarter-century of faithful service to the American Radio Relay League.” The resolution cites that Ellen White had “built a reputation for thoroughness and objectivity on a mountain of contest logs,” and celebrated her “intelligent and creative work as Deputy Communications Manager.”

White was admired by the worldwide amateur radio community. In 2019, she was the sole US radio amateur to be awarded the Russian E.T. Krenkel Medal, a prestigious award granted to individuals and organizations for outstanding global contributions to amateur radio.

Director of ARRL’s Publications and Editorial Department Becky Schoenfeld, W1BXY, reflected on the news of White’s passing. “Ellen was a trailblazing woman in amateur radio. She and I corresponded over the years [before] finally meeting up at Orlando HamCation® in 2020. Ellen often marveled at how much farther women had come in the ham radio hobby, service, and community since she got her start. Every time I talked to her, I thanked her for paving the way,” said Schoenfeld.

Remembrances for White began arriving at ARRL Headquarters early Monday morning.

First Class CW Operators’ Club (FOC) Membership Secretary Tyler Barnett, N4TY, sent a message to all club members. “Ellen joined FOC in May 1966, and was active in retirement from her Florida contest station, and most recently remote via the W7RN Comstock Memorial station. … This is a very sad day. She will be missed on the air, and at the Florida dinners.” Barnett said White was FOC member #875.

White was also referred to as the “founding grandmother” of the Florida Contest Group (FCG). President Chris Plumblee, W4WF, added, “It is fitting, in a few ways, that Ellen passed away during SS [ARRL Sweepstakes] CW, a contest that she administered for years while she worked at the ARRL.”

White had already learned Morse code in high school, and only rarely operated any other mode. “Ellen loved CW, contesting, and DXing,” said Rosalie White, K1STO (no relation), former ARRL Field & Educational Services Manager, who was hired by Ellen White to work for ARRL in 1973. “Ellen and I got a lot of hams asking, ‘Are you Ellen's daughter?’ or ‘Are you Rosalie's mother?’” said Rosalie White. “We always replied, ‘No, but that would've been cool.’” Rosalie White is now an ARISS-International US Delegate representing ARRL.

Rosalie White recounted that in the 1940s, Ellen and Bob White earned First Class Radiotelephone and Second Class Radiotelegraph commercial licenses. “She [Ellen White], being a maverick, also took the Class B FCC Amateur Radio test to become W2RBU, and promptly joined ARRL. Radio broadcast station KPOA based in Oahu, Hawaii, hired her (then KH6QI) as station engineer in the day when it was unheard of for a woman. She and Bob then headed to San Diego, California, where she took another radio broadcast engineer job, and also ran for and became ARRL San Diego Section Communications Manager (now called Section Manager). This was prior to their applying for jobs (at ARRL) in Newington in 1947.”

The article “A Conversation with Ellen White, W1YL,” by Rosalie White appeared in the May/June 2015 issue of NCJ, published by ARRL.

Eric Guth, 4Z1UG, of the QSO Today Amateur Radio Podcast, introduced Ellen White as the “Grande Dame” of amateur radio in an interview recorded on April 27, 2016 (read the transcript).

Ellen White was preceded in death by her husband Bob in 2003, and her son Jim White, K4OJ (SK), in 2004.



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