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Prolific Amateur Radio and SWL Author Harry Helms, W5HLH (ex-AA6FW) (SK)


After a long bout with cancer, Harry Helms, W5HLH (ex-AA6FW), passed away Sunday, November 15. He was 57. Known for his witticism and geniality, Helms was known for his many books -- such as Shortwave Listening Guidebook: The Complete Guide to Hearing the World, All About Ham Radio, How to Tune the Secret Short Wave Spectrum and Handbook of Radio Communications Servicing and Maintenance -- and his monthly column "You Should Know: Interesting Thoughts and Ideas for Enjoying the Hobby" in Popular Communications.

In an April 1992 QST article, Helms told the ARRL that that he tried "to make it clear in my work that I'm a ham radio operator and that ham radio played a major role in getting me where I am today, and I always enjoy pitching ham radio to people who ask what those letters and numbers after my name stand for. If it wasn't for Amateur Radio, I wouldn't have had the career I do -- as I can't think of anything else I could do instead. I'd like others to be as lucky as I was to have Amateur Radio play such an important role in their formative years."

In that 1992 article, Helms predicted that no one would be able to recognize Amateur Radio in 2012: "Most amateurs will be codeless hams. A substantial minority of hams will never even touch a microphone, but will communicate only via keyboard...Bottom line: I feel that we're on the verge of a revolution in the mix of the ham population and operating styles that will be equivalent to the SSB and FM repeater revolutions -- and then some -- rolled into one! The 'good old days' are still in the future, and I'm looking forward to 1993 and beyond."

Since his teens, Helms enjoyed an all-out fascination with the radio spectrum. He told the ARRL that in 1986, he was touring the then-Soviet Union when the nuclear power plant Chernobyl exploded. "With the small, portable shortwave receiver I had taken along, I was able to keep informed as to what had really happened, thanks to the BBC and VOA," he told QST. "Even our official Soviet tour guides were discreetly asking me what the Western media was saying. This incident typifies a fundamental notion of mine that in a world where satellites and fiber optics are the hot buzz words, there's still a place -- and need -- for the simple, but reliable shortwave communications radio amateurs pioneered and still practice."

Helms -- who with his wife relocated back to his childhood state of South Carolina earlier this year -- wrote in his last blog entry that he was "just a few miles from the graves of my parents and grandparents; while it sounds illogical, I find this comforting. My journey began here, and it will soon end here. Physically, I am declining fast. I can't walk more than a few steps before becoming exhausted...But I am happier than I have been in a long time. I'm not going to live any longer here, but I will die surround[ed] by people who truly love me. That means a lot."

Helms is survived by his wife, Di. Funeral arrangements are pending.



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