BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) – Veteran amateur radio operator William M. (Bill) Johnson, 86, of Bend, died on Monday, September 20. He was known to his amateur radio friends by his call sign, N7RGB.
Johnson was extremely active on local amateur radio repeaters, a system he helped build. His interest in electronics began at the age of 10, when he and his father built an AM radio receiver from a kit. This sparked a lifelong education and training effort that furthered his radio career.
In his early years he worked in two-way radio shops and was eventually hired by the State of Oregon for a 25-year career working on radio systems for ODOT and state police. from Oregon.
Johnson was selected as the 2016 Amateur Radio Operator of the Year by the High Desert Amateur Radio Group (HIDARG). Each year, the Board of Directors chooses a recipient for this special award. They are looking for a ham that has played a crucial role in the success of our local ham community. The recipient is someone who has shown a dedication to amateur radio that exceeds all expectations over a long period of time.
Bill Johnson was chosen for the award primarily for the years of service he provided to the team that designed and manufactured the Amateur Radio Repeater System spanning much of Oregon.
This extensive repeater system spans much of central and eastern Oregon. The main function is to provide emergency back-up communications. Agencies served include all central Oregon hospitals and all public safety agencies. The system consists of six radios at the top of the mountain, all linked together. Many sites are independent of the telephone and electricity networks. These sites operate on solar and wind energy, or on rechargeable battery systems.
Johnson was involved in the maintenance and repair of the entire system. He spent a lot of time visiting the sites on various mountain peaks supporting the system. He was involved in the operation and maintenance of the Emergency Communications Trailer that serves the Deschutes County Emergency Management Office and Sheriff’s Office.
Johnson often shared stories of his risky trips to mountain tops on snowmobiles to maintain radios. Bill Johnson Retired in 1997 and became more than a “full time volunteer” with HIDARG and the Deschutes County / AUXCOMM Amateur Radio Emergency Service. He has also volunteered with Deschutes County Search and Rescue and the Oregon State Fire Marshal.
He always kept a complete kit in his truck for emergency communications or public events. He could set up an emergency communication 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 her daughter, Kimberly Frier from Bend
A celebration of Johnson’s life will be held at 10 a.m. on Saturday, October 2 at Foundry Church, 60 NW Oregon Ave, Bend.