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Bend amateur radio expert Bill Johnson passes away at 86

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Veteran amateur radio operator William M. (Bill) Johnson, 86, of Bend, died on Monday, Sept. 20. He was known to his ham (amateur) radio friends by his call sign, N7RGB.

Johnson was extremely active on local ham radio repeaters, a system he helped build. His interest in electronics began at age 10, when he and his father built an AM radio receiver from a kit. That sparked a lifelong education and training effort that fostered his career in radio.

In his early years, he worked in two-way radio shops and eventually was hired by the State of Oregon for a 25-year career working on radio systems for ODOT and the Oregon State Police.

Johnson was selected as the ham radio operator of the year in 2016 by the High Desert Amateur Radio Group (HIDARG). Each year, the Board of Directors selects a recipient for this special award. They look for a ham who has been crucial to the success of our local ham community. The recipient is a person who has shown a dedication to ham radio that exceeds all expectations over a long period of time.

Bill Johnson was chosen for the award primarily for years of service he provided as part of the team that designed and engineered the ham radio repeater system covering a major portion of Oregon.

This extensive repeater system stretches across much of Central and Eastern Oregon. The primary function is to provide backup emergency communications. Agencies served include all hospitals in Central Oregon and all public safety agencies. The system consists of six mountaintop radios-all linked together. Many of the sites are independent of telephone and power systems. Those sites run on solar and wind power, or on rechargeable battery systems.

Johnson was involved in maintenance and repair of the entire system. He spent a lot of time visiting the sites on various mountaintops supporting the system. He was involved in the operation and maintenance of the emergency communications trailer that serves the Deschutes County Office of Emergency Management and Sheriff’s Office.

Johnson frequently shared stories about his risky trips to mountaintops via snowmobiles to maintain the radio sties. Bill Johnson He retired in 1997 and became a more than “full time volunteer” with HIDARG and the Deschutes County Amateur Radio Emergency Service/AUXCOMM. He also did volunteer work for the Deschutes County Search and Rescue, and the Oregon State Fire Marshal.

He always kept a fully stocked go-kit in his truck for emergency or public event communications. He could set up an emergency communications station almost anywhere in a matter of minutes.

Johnson’s other interests included motorcycles and square dancing…hobbies he shared with his wife, Wilma. Johnson is survived by his wife of 62 years, Wilma; Bend; daughter Cheryl Lynn Hamann, Eugene; son, Jeffrey Johnson, Bend; and daughter, Kimberly Frier of Bend

A celebration of life for Johnson will be at 10 am on Saturday, Oct. 2, at the Foundry Church, at 60 NW Oregon Ave, Bend.

Article Topic Follows: Bend

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