A tale of Two W7HERs

Discussion in 'Amateur Radio News' started by N7JI, Nov 7, 2020.

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  1. N7JI

    N7JI Ham Member QRZ Page

    A Tale of Two W7HERs

    My daughter Hannah was born in May of 2002. She has always had a ham radio-crazy dad. Whether it was code paddles on the passenger seat, a disembodied voice in the car, Field Day on the porch, or hilltop contacts while hiking, she has always been around ham radio. In one of my favorite photos, from November, 2002, she’s sitting on my lap, eating the Yaesu FT-817 microphone during ARRL Sweepstakes, but I don’t think she completed the exchange.


    Ham radio has given me lifelong friends, and I now have an all-ham family. I love the weird occurrences and coincidences that seem to pop up in ham radio, like going to a hamfest and seeing a callsign you’ve only heard on the air, an Oregon-to-Japan 20 meter CW contact with the power control set to zero, or finding out that a co-worker was a ham as a kid in the 1950’s and has many stories to tell.

    Hannah always resisted dad’s geeky hobby, although she was always a good sport when I asked her to make a couple of contacts with me during a contest, go to a hamfest, or help set up and operate during ARRL Field Day. But she has always humored me, and I’ve always appreciated that. I convinced her to study for her Technician class license back in 2013, but she didn’t pass the exam, and it sat on the back burner for a while.

    Six years later, Hannah found herself in the midst of two years’ worth of high school physics. I mentioned that, during the summer, studying for her license would bridge the gap between those physics classes, not to mention that there were scholarships available for hams going to college. She received her Technician’s license in August, 2019. A few months later, I mentioned that the General exam would match up well with the electromagnetics and waves section of her physics class. She passed her General exam in December.

    When the pandemic hit in March of this year, Hannah decided she would stay close to home and go to the University of Oregon. Her senior year of high school ended abruptly, like everyone else’s, and with a six month summer vacation looming, I recommended that she study for the Extra class exam as a way to prepare for college while doing something useful. We also discussed her becoming a volunteer examiner, as it would give us something to do together once the lockdown was over.

    Our family of hams belongs to the Valley Radio Club, a large, supportive, active radio club here in Eugene with an active VE team. Hannah turned 18 in May. We administered exams together in June. Her high school physics teacher studied for his Technician license during the “down time,” and Hannah was privileged to administer and grade HIS exam (for a change), and sign his certificate and Form 605. She also passed her Extra class exam in June, right before the question pool changed.

    I started searching for unassigned callsigns, and to my shock, W7HER was available. It’s obviously an ideal callsign for a YL, and “HER” are Hannah’s initials, too! After 18 days, the FCC assigned her new callsign, giving Hannah her own amazing coincidence to experience.

    The FCC ULS database listed the previous licensee as Harlan E. Rolph, who held the callsign in the 1990’s and 2000’s, but I figured that it must have been assigned to someone well before that.

    I searched for traces of W7HER in the online archive of Radio Amateur Callbooks, and found it assigned in 1939 to Marjory Allingham of Tigard, Oregon. In the late 1940’s, her address (and name) changed to Marjory Ramey of Eugene, Oregon, and in 1979, it disappeared..

    “Hmmm, she lived in Eugene, and we live in Eugene, how weird,” I thought.

    The great thing about re-allocated callsigns is that each one has a unique history, having been used by someone else in a different time. W7HER was originally allocated and used years before transistors existed, when “phone” simply meant “AM” because SSB wasn’t used yet. Since Eugene is a “big, small, college town,” I searched for “Marjory Ramey” on the web, and immediately discovered a transcript of an interview with “Marge Ramey” of Eugene, in which she talked about attending the University of Oregon, living just east of campus, and working as the UO Director of Housing.

    I thought, “wow, the 7th call area is really large, what a coincidence that she had lived a mile from us, went to UO, and worked there.” My father-in-law, a retired UO professor, had even met her.

    Because the phone book called “the white pages” doesn’t exist anymore, I thought I would look online for people named “Ramey” who lived in Eugene. Amazingly, there was an “M. Ramey” listed, with an address identical to W7HER’s last published callbook address.

    I nervously called the phone number, and someone answered.

    “Is this the Ramey residence?”


    “Is this Marjory?”

    “Yes, that’s me.”

    “Were you W7HER?”

    “Yes, I was.”

    I was absolutely stunned to be speaking with the original W7HER.

    I proceeded to tell her the story of W7HER, my daughter, who was born and grew up in Eugene, and was also going to be an Oregon Duck. Marjory explained that she’d gotten her license when she was 13, and although she could copy CW at a very young age, it took her five tries to pass the written part. She also said that her father had petitioned the FCC to give her that call. Now 95 years old, she had let her license lapse, but was thrilled to hear from me. We agreed we should all meet before Hannah disappeared into the Covid-19 induced student bubble in the dorms.

    September brought historic forest fires that filled the Willamette Valley with thick, choking smoke, so our meeting would have to wait. I searched further on the web for her call, and found a photo of Marjory and her mom (also a ham) from the January, 1940 issue of Radio magazine.


    Finally, at the end of September, the day before Hannah checked into the dorms, the smoke finally cleared out of the valley, and the original W7HER and the new W7HER, were thrilled to finally meet. We even heard a great story that most hams can appreciate:

    "A young ham was to attend UO, and wanted to bring his ham equipment to the dorm. He went to resident housing to ask for permission to set up his equipment in his dorm room. He obviously expected a response of “no,” but didn’t realize he was speaking with a ham radio operator at the time, and instead received an answer of, “well, if you hide the wire up under the eaves, nobody will ever see it.”

    We chatted for about 20 minutes. Hannah received some very sage advice, and will be updating Marjory periodically about how her college experience is going.


    One of the greatest thrills of ham radio is how it can link generations. We offered to help Marjory get licensed again, but she graciously declined. At any rate, hopefully this the first of many amazing experiences radio will provide for my daughter Hannah, the new W7HER.


    Scott N7JI

    Karen K3LUX

    Hannah W7HER

    Nate K7NAR


    Online archive of Radio Amateur Callbooks. https://archive.org/details/callbook Radio magazine, January, 1940, page 103. https://worldradiohistory.com/Radio_Magazine_Guide.htm
    NQ1B, IN3HEZ, KF7PCL and 51 others like this.
  2. WZ7U

    WZ7U Ham Member QRZ Page

    Absolutely amazing how things go in circles like that. Thank you for sharing such a wonderful story with us.
  3. WG7X

    WG7X Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Very neat, Scott! Thanks for sharing!
  4. KC9ONY

    KC9ONY Ham Member QRZ Page

    Interesting story! Isn't it amazing what information you can find with the internet?
    Years ago, you'd be spending time in the library, writing letters, making photocopies....
    Best of luck to all involved!
  5. W3WN

    W3WN Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Fantastic story, Scott!

    Could I have your permission to reprint this in a future issue of my club newsletter?
    N5HNX and W7TVS like this.
  6. KD8DEY

    KD8DEY Ham Member QRZ Page

    Cool Story
    (I'm an original)
  7. KC9ONY

    KC9ONY Ham Member QRZ Page

    Hey, that's a great idea for our newsletter, too! ;)
  8. KC3PBI

    KC3PBI XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    Neat stuff! Really looking forward to teaching my own daughter!
  9. WR2E

    WR2E Ham Member QRZ Page

    Wow, that is a neat story!

    And never mind the fact that if I didn't know better I would say they could be Grand-mother and Grand-daughter!
  10. W7SY

    W7SY Ham Member QRZ Page

    Great story, thanks for sharing here on qrz.com.

    You are so lucky to have found Mrs. Marjory Allingham in the same town you guys live in.

    The W7HER call sign is truly in good hands again, and a call sign to keep for life.

    W7TVS likes this.

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