CQ Contest Hall of Fame member John Crovelli, W2GD, has achieved first-place world scores in the CQ World Wide DX phone and CW, the ARRL International DX phone and CW, the IARU HF World Championship CW and the CQ WPX CW. He holds multiple current CQ WW Low Power and QRP world records, and has numerous winning ARRL Field Day and CQ 160 Meter Contest multioperator scores to his credit. John has been a member of four World Radiosport Team Championship (WRTC) teams over the last 15 years. How did he become such an outstanding contester, and how did he bounce back from a near-fatal tower accident in 2008? Here is John's fascinating Amateur Radio story.
Amateur radio has played a dominant role in my life for more than 50 years, and contesting has always been the major attraction. I've met thousands of similarly addicted competitors and have enjoyed the benefits of many enduring friendships. I grew up in the small rural Northern New Jersey town of Liberty Center, which in the late 1950s was still outside the fringe of the New York City megalopolis. At age nine, while listening to 40 meters on a vintage 1930s Philco table radio that I'd won at auction for 50 cents, I heard conversations between stations with W and K call signs. I wasn't sure what was happening or even whom to ask about it at the time.
As was the case with so many hams of my generation, my introduction to Amateur Radio was via a TV repairman, in my case Irb Richard, W2VJZ, a neighbor, who showed me both his mobile and home rigs and took me along to ARRL Field Day in 1960. His father, John, W2GZJ, my Elmer, was blind, and I found his ability to build equipment from scratch an inspiration. After I passed my Novice exam the following June, Irb took me out to "operate," even though my license hadn't yet arrived. Every one of the 34 contacts I made during Field Day 1961 was a total thrill.
My first station was a Heathkit DX-20 transmitter and Knight Kit Span Master two-tube regenerative receiver, built from kits. Dad and I hung a random wire between the barn and a pushup mast. My code speed quickly improved, and I was working stations all the way out to Wisconsin! Years later, looking through my Novice logs, I realized I'd randomly worked many contesting greats of the time, such as W9IOP, W4KFC, W3GM and others who were prowling the Novice bands in those days.
At the FCC Field Office in New York City that winter I met Ed Gilbert, WV2SRQ (now K2SQ), beginning a 50-year friendship. As did so many of my peers, I gravitated to the CW traffic nets to home my skills, got an ARRL Official Relay Station appointment, and dove into the ARRL Communications Department (CD) parties, ARRL November Sweepstakes and other domestic contests.
Through high school, I kept at traffic-handling, operated as many contests as I could (Sweepstakes and the CD parties were favorites) and earned money for radio equipment by cutting lawns and delivering newspapers. One local, W2ZKE, took me to meetings of the Morris Radio Club and on 10-meter transmitter hunts. There was a WA2SRQ/WA2UOO class 2B Field Day each June, and I started hanging out with other young East Coast contesters almost every night on 3830.
My non-radio interests included music and Boy Scouts. I played the tuba and sousaphone in the high school concert and marching bands and enjoyed summer camping trips to the Adirondack Mountains in Upstate New York.
In 1967 I headed to Washington, DC to attend The American University, where I earned a BS in business administration (computer systems) in 1971. I met Chet, WA4KJR (later KP4EAJ and now N4FX), who was the MARS operator at the US Coast Guard's K4CG. He invited me to operate with the K4CG multi-multi team, my first real exposure to DX contesting. I operated several CQ World Wide and ARRL events there, rubbing elbows with PVRCers K3WUW (later W3PP, SK), WB4FDT, W4YE, K4PQL (now N4AF), N4HY, K6LZO (now K6ZO) and others. Future ARRL President Vic Clarke, W4KFC (SK), was the Alexandria Coast Guard site executive at the time. Meeting Vic back then was like shaking hands with a god.
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