The amateur radio community lost a valuable member last week. Dennis, W9PBB, a good personal friend and mentor suddenly passed away at the age of 76. It’s a shock whenever anyone close to you dies, but when the person was taken suddenly and without warning, it can be especially hard.

Dennis helping prototype the KB9VBR Slim Jim Antenna

Dennis, W9PBB (right) with a Slim Jim Prototype

Dennis was a friend to all, a kind man, and a ham that knew his stuff. First licensed in 1952 at the age of 17, he was ever the teacher. As a youth he took his equipment up to Boy Scout summer camp to teach morse code and the Radio Merit Badge. He spent time in the service as an electronics technician, graduated college with a degree in electronics education and spent most of his life teaching in colleges and technical schools.

I met Dennis more than 10 years ago after he retired from teaching and moved back to the Wausau, WI area. He was an active member of our amateur radio club and loved any activity that involved getting new people or youth involved with amateur radio, such as our technician license classes, JOTA, Field Day, and demonstration events. Two weeks before he died he spent the day working with 150 Girl Scouts at a Camporee to introduce them to amateur radio. Just days before his passing I spent an entire Saturday with him demonstrating amateur radio at an area fire department open house. The days after his death he was to help teach a Technician licensing class and was planning for the upcoming Scouting Jamboree on the Air.

KB9VBR VHF and UHF J-Pole AntennasI often consulted with Dennis on antenna theory and design. He helped refine my J-Pole and Slim Jim antennas and was one of the earliest users of my antennas. As we carefully disassembled and packed up his shack last week, we had to take down the two J-Pole antennas at his house that spent more than 10 years in service. The antennas had turned a deep brown from age, but they still work great to this day.

It’s going to take six people to replace what Dennis was doing for the ham radio community. No one that I know had such depth and diversity of knowledge, love for teaching, and communicating.