Especially during quarantine, amateur radio offers the possibility of connecting with others
TAUNTON – Dr. Thadeus “Ted” Figlock has traveled the world for nearly six decades.
And he did it most of the time in a sitting position.
The 85-year-old former obstetrician and gynecologist, who unpretentiously describes his medical career as having consisted mainly of “giving birth and removing tumors”, has had a difficult year.
Figlock says he suffered a stroke last February, Ash Wednesday to be exact, which hit him “like a ton of bricks.” He says he also suffers from a lung disease known as pulmonary fibrosis.
Despite these illnesses, the Hudson, Pennsylvania native continues to remain active as an amateur radio operator.
“You do it for fun,” Figlock said in an interview in the backyard of his Winthrop Street home.
“It’s like fishing,” he says. “We go fishing for people who want to talk to us. It is a sport.
Figlock did not stop working as a doctor after closing his practice. He says he worked for some time at the Jamaica Plain VA Medical Center and at a medical marijuana facility in Fall River.
His enthusiasm as an amateur radio operator, or hobbyist, has not waned, despite adjustments to his routine stemming from his medical problems.
Figlock used to spend time alone on his ham radio in a small room in his basement. He no longer ventures down the stairs and instead uses a second facility on the ground floor of his house, which is equipped with two antennas.
He has also gone mobile. It’s not often that you’ll catch Figlock without his trusty portable transceiver, also known as the ham-radio walkie-talkie.
The first amateur radio (amateurs of amateur radio often refer to themselves as hams) in the United States dates back to the first decade of the 20th century.
To become an amateur radio operator, one must obtain a license by passing an exam with the Federal Communication Commission. The FCC requires that the license be renewed every 10 years.
But there are no prerequisites when it comes to Morse code. After obtaining an amateur radio license, you can either train yourself or enlist the help of an experienced amateur already familiar with the international points and dashes system.
Figlock says there was a time when Massachusetts radio operators who wanted to use Morse code had to take a test at Boston’s Custom House Tower, now home to the Marriott Custom House Hotel.
Amateur radio, he said, remains popular in the United States and much of the world. And even though it dates back to the 19th century, Figlock says Morse code is “more popular than ever.”
The American Radio Relay League (ARRL), which boasts more than 160,000 members, bills itself as “the largest amateur radio organization in the United States and the leading source of information on what is happening in the amateur radio world. .
In addition to being a member of the ARRL, Figlock says he belongs to seven different amateur radio clubs and is able to talk to other radio amateurs on five continents and in all 50 US states using his callsign. call W1HGY.
Call signs are assigned to amateur radio operators around the world by the International Telecommunication Union, which is a specialized agency of the United Nations.
“It’s a very personal thing,” Figlock said.
He says being an amateur radio operator in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic offers many hams, especially for the elderly, a sense of security and interconnectivity,
“A lot of people are still stuck at home,” he said.
Figlock says he looks forward to the time when he and other Taunton area members of the Pilgrim Amateur Radio Club, which is affiliated with the Eastern Massachusetts ARRL, can once again get together for their monthly dinner.
Figlock has been a member since 1967.
He says that before the advent of the coronavirus, a group of about 15 members would meet for dinner on the first Friday of every month at the local Papa Gino’s.
Figlock says they have also participated in emergency drills in the past and also participated in a 24-hour “field day“.
“You go up a hill for 24 hours and try to make as much contact as possible,” he said.
Figlock says that in addition to providing a social outlet, being a ham can be educational.
He says he and other members of the Florida-based Medical Amateur Radio Council tune in every Sunday morning for updates on everything from COVID-19 vaccine trials and cardiac bypass techniques, to the enzyme system in the liver. human rights and the history of the car radio.
Figlock, along with fellow Keystone State native Lloyd Roach, is credited with co-founding the Saint Maximilian Kolbe Radio Net.
An amateur radio network, or amateur network, is a gathering of amateur radio operators who meet “on air” according to a regular schedule and a specific frequency for a particular purpose.
Figlock and Roach founded the Kolbe Radio Net in 1998 to commemorate Polish Franciscan Brother Saint Maximilian Maria Kolbe – who, before being deported to the German death camp in Auschwitz, Poland, had built a religious radio station shortwave and published a daily and a series of periodicals.
Kolbe died at Auschwitz as he volunteered to replace a Polish army sergeant who was to starve with nine other prisoners, as punishment by the Germans after a prisoner escaped from the camp.
Figlock moved from Pennsylvania to Bridgeport, Connecticut when he was a boy and eventually attended Fairfield University, which is a Jesuit university.
In 1960 he graduated from New York Medical College where he met his future wife, a dietetic intern from Great Neck named Mary Ellen Hull.
“She was a new face, and the rest of her looked good too,” he said with a slight smile.
Figlock was drafted into the U.S. Army as the Vietnam War escalated, as part of what was then known as the Berry Plan, previously known as the Doctor’s Project, which postponed military service mandatory until the internship or residency program for a young physician is completed. .
Figlock says that in addition to serving in South Vietnam, he was also assigned to Walter Read Hospital in the District of Columbia.
He and his wife moved to Taunton from their residence in Fort Devens, Massachusetts, which at the time was still an active-duty military base.
They raised two sons and two daughters, only one of whom was not interested in amateur radio.
Figlock opened his doctor’s office and, after work, looked into what was to become his favorite hobby.
“It’s a great little community,” he said of Taunton.