Ellen White, W1YL, Silent Key, has dedicated her life to amateur radio and the ARRL

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07/11/2022

Ellen White, W1YL, of Brandon, Fla., died on Sunday, November 6, 2022. She was 95. White became a radio amateur in 1946 and devoted more than 75 years of her life to amateur radio, including more than 25 years on the staff of the headquarters of the ARRL The National Amateur Radio Association®. She retired in 1978 as deputy director of communications and became editor-in-chief of the “How’s DX?” for the ARRL Membership Journal, QST. White was an ARRL life member and donor.

At its January 1978 meeting, the ARRL Board of Directors passed a resolution recognizing White and her husband Robert (Bob) L. White, W1CW (SK), after having “performed a quarter of a century of loyal 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 journals” and celebrated her “intelligent and creative work as assistant director of communications”.

White was admired by the worldwide amateur radio community. In 2019, she was the only American radio amateur to receive the Russian ET Krenkel Medal, a prestigious award given to individuals and organizations for their outstanding worldwide contributions to amateur radio.

ARRL Publications and Editorial Department Director Becky Schoenfeld, W1BXY, reflected on the news of White’s passing. “Ellen was a pioneer woman in amateur radio. She and I have corresponded over the years [before] finally met at Orlando HamCation® in 2020. Ellen has often marveled at how far women have come in the hobby, service, and community of amateur radio since its beginnings. Every time I spoke to her, I thanked her for leading the way,” Schoenfeld said.

Memories of White began arriving at ARRL headquarters early Monday morning.

Tyler Barnett, N4TY, Membership Secretary of the First Class CW Operators’ Club (FOC), 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 remotely via station W7RN Comstock Memorial. … It’s a very sad day. She will be missed on air and at Florida dinner parties. 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 some ways that Ellen died during SS [ARRL Sweepstakes] CW, a contest she administered for years while working at the ARRL.

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

Rosalie White recounted that in the 1940s, Ellen and Bob White obtained business licenses for first class radiotelephony and second class radiotelegraphy. “She [Ellen White], being a maverick, also passed the FCC Class B amateur radio test to become W2RBU and soon joined the ARRL. Oahu, Hawaii-based radio station KPOA hired her (then KH6QI) as the station’s engineer back when it was unheard of for a woman. She and Bob then traveled to San Diego, California, where she took another job as a radio broadcast engineer, and also showed up and became ARRL San Diego Section Communications Manager (now called Section Manager). This was before they applied for jobs (at the ARRL) in Newington in 1947.”

The article “A conversation with Ellen White, W1YLby Rosalie White in the May/June 2015 issue of NYCpublished by ARRL.

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

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

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