Like most hams, this month’s featured amateur radio operator, Thomas (Red) Stillman, dreamed of building his own place with radio features as the most important aspect.
In 1994, he as his wife who was also an ham (AG6APE) built a place on the top of a hill at 4000 feet elevation near Squaw Valley, California. He did most of the work himself and it included a copper tubing ground system covering much of his property, all the power lines in bonded conduit, antenna towers, a large dedicated room for the radios and a a huge workshop with all the power tools you can imagine. This was the retirement home for he and his wife and it capped almost a life time in radio and a long career in electronics.
Red was born in Tuscon, Arizona and became interested in radio at the age of ten. His first Elmer was Charles Sabor, W7TXM, now a silent key. The FCC examiner came to his town only once a year and he started taking the examination for what was called a Class B license in 1947 and passed it the following year with the call W7RVB.
After high school graduation, he joined the Navy and served mostly on shipboard as an electronics technician in the Pacific seeing exotic locations including Inchon, Hong Kong, Japan and the Philippines.
He returned to Tuscon and went to the University of Arizona for a degree in electrical engineering. He worked for Hughes Aircraft while still in school and then moved to the Los Angeles area where he and his wife lived and raised two children. At first he continued to work for Hughes, and then Bendix and finally, and for most of his career, GTE.
As interesting as that profession might be to us, the more captivating job he has was the part time installation of antenna towers and systems for fellow ham radio operators. It was first a hobby, then a business and finally, it evolved to taking down and selling systems when a ham moved away or QSY’s to the great beyond. In this activity, he gathered a number of towers, rotators, antennas and tower hardware that he traded, sold or kept. He still has a museum of those towers on an annex to his property in Squaw Valley for which he will provide a tour of towers available to hams for the past 50 years.
He advanced his license to Extra Class the first year it was available in 1951. He has DXCC number of 370 and is a life member of the ARRL, telling me it was the best investment of his life by this time. His call letters changed to W6AEM when he moved to LA and in 1975, to the current W6AE when vanity calls became available. He has been a member of the Southern California DX club and since moving to this area in 1994, a member of FARC. He has attended the Dayton, Ohio Hamvention more years than many of us have been alive.
His favorite aspect of ham radio, as you might expect is DX and of course, antennas and towers.
Red can be seen at radio club meetings, the Thursday lunch at Silver Dollar and at Field Day activities for FARC, where he will enthusiastically discuss with you just about any aspect of ham radio and his long career in our hobby.
By: Joe Capell, W0PJD