W3ZDJ, Bernie, back on May 21, 2008
To the attention of the QRZ database team: W3ZDJ, "Whiskey Three Zanzibar Denmark Japan", Bernnie L. Cramer, died May 21, 2008. His funeral service was held Saturday, May 24, 2008, at the Gaut-Bacha Funeral Home, Inc., in Pleasant Unity, Pennsylvania.
I noticed that his call is still listed as active/current upon looking him up on QRZ.
Bernie was my 10th grade Electronic's Shop teacher at Greensburg Salem High School, Greensburg, PA, back in 1977-1978. The class I took was called "Communications Electronics"; just one of the electric classes offered to students.
Unfortunately, many students took "shop" to get out of taking other classes, and their intentions/study habits were not necessarily on the same level as most students. "Bernnie" was a patient man, though.....
On the very first day of class, Bernnie wrote all of the Final Exam questions on the blackboard (either 20 or 30), then gave us paper, and told us to answer as many questions as we could. He said if we passed the test that day, we could do whatever we wanted for the duration of the next 9 months. A majority of students started laughing, as did Bernnie!
However, midway through the test, I asked for more paper. He eyed me quite suspiciously, and handed me a few more sheets, asking, "Do you think THIS will be enough?" I think I answered, "I hope so."
With 15 minutes or so left in the class, he asked for students to hand in their papers, but I asked for more time. Again, suspicious looks. So, I quickly answered the last questions, and handed in my papers. The look I got from him, and the others students...well, it was most interesting.
After a couple minutes, he called out: "Randy Davis, is there a Randy Davis actually in this room?" I raised my hand, and walked over to his desk. Bernnie motioned for me to stand facing him, while his back was to the other students. He then took off his glasses, looked at me, and quietly asked: "Where the HELL did you learn all of this stuff?"
I told him that on August 18, 1977, two weeks before the start of his class, I had passed the General Class Amateur Radio exam in Pittsburgh, and that my call sign was WB3EKR. (His test was pretty much a combination of the Novice class and General class tests of that time, and it was still quite fresh in my mind. 15-year-old minds are like that...!!)
The grin he gave me was the biggest grin I have EVER seen a teacher give anybody. He reached out his hand, and said, "Hi, old man. I'm Bernnie, W3ZDJ, and you just passed my class! What bands do you work??!!"
From that day on, both in and out of class, Bernnie was a friend to this awkward high school student; when kids who were Hams was not a "normal" event. He let me know that WE were on equal terms, even though he was the teacher, and I, the student. And he quickly spread the word to another Ham I was about to meet, the 10th grade Driver's Education teacher, Morton "Bud" Crownover, W3TFI. (SK for many years now...)
We were the Hams of High School!!
Bernnie's classes actually produced a dozen or so new Hams while I was in Senior High School. Affectionally called "Bernnie's Kids", many of those early Novices still hold their tickets today...some still holding "Novice" classes, but renewing every 10 years!
Bernnie retired from teaching in 1986. My younger brother had Mr. Cramer as a home room teacher, and during the final days of the school year, I visited him, to wish him well. It was like old friends meeting again! And in true Bernnie spirit, he asked if he could help me with anything. "Since I am retiring", he said, "do you need anything?" He took me to the "radio shack", a storehouse of parts and oddities that only a Ham-teacher could accumulate, without having to justify it to anyone, other than "This is needed to teach my class". My arms were filled with stuff, but I had enough room left to shake his hand for the last time!
Bernnie could be found on HF SSB, working his single band Heathkit SSB transceivers, but in the years after high school, I did not have an HF station. With the passage of time, I was always at the hamfest either too early or too late to have an eyeball QSO with him, but reports from other "Bernnie's Kids" said he was doing well...getting older, yes...but doing well.
On May 22, 2008, I read of W3ZDJ's passing in the Greensburg Tribune-Review (Greensburg, PA), and visited to pay my respects to his family the next day. He was an appreciated man, by everyone I encountered...from family to former students. The waiting line was long, as I left the funeral home...
Thank you, Bernnie, W3ZDJ! Until we QSO again, OM, I wish you "Best 73"!! C U down the log!!