Jim Hatherley, WA1TBY, Silent Key

Jim Hatherley, WA1TBY, Brighton, Massachusetts lost his fight with cancer on December 19, 2000. He was an exceptional traffic handler. When Jim was younger, he served as a Chief Radioman in the U.S. Navy. He loved CW best. Jim mentored many aspiring NTS traffic handlers, and participated in many training nets over the years. His contributions are too numerous to mention.

“I’ve heard it said that Jim could sit with his feet up on his desk, watch TV, and send traffic at the same time,” remarked Charles Lord, N1WAS (SK). “I wouldn’t doubt that a bit. He was quick to correct any mistakes you might make in procedure, but he was gentle about it, and it was seldom that you could pass traffic to Jim without learning something that made you better at it.”

Marcia Forde, KW1U, had a good working relationship with WA1TBY.  She recalls, “When Jim went to work for the USPS in order to gain enough government time to earn a pension and was assigned to evening hours, he asked me to take on the job as STM in his place.  This I gladly did until he was able to retire five years later, at which time I became full time employed and I returned the job to Jim.”

Marcia also recalls the time she and Jim took part in a CW “qualifying” run conducted by Tom, W1QYY (SK), where she and Jim were the only ones left copying at 30 wpm.  “When Tom went to 35 wpm, both Jim and I were no longer able to write down everything although we could copy it in our heads.  Tom told us to write in script instead of block printing and we were easily able to break that barrier.  Of course Jim always used his mill for traffic and was easily able to copy whatever we sent him on the nets.  He encouraged me to type my traffic, but the electric typewriter I had at the time (before computers) made too much noise which conflicted with the CW signal and I quickly gave up.” She adds, “Of course when computers came along I followed Jim’s advice about typing traffic and what a difference that made!”

Marcia remembers Jim used to coordinate the annual traffic picnics every summer, then at a park in Auburndale along the Charles River.  She also remembers the tradition of throwing Jim into the river, a practice he took all in good fun.

Phil Temples, K9HI also remembers Jim’s penchant for taking “dips in the water.”  “I recall a certain New England Division Convention at Boxboro where Jim was seen–and heard, rather loudly–“skinny-dipping” in the pool in the wee hours of the morning!”

Phil fondly recalls the time Jim came to the aid of he and his wife when their car broke down while returning home from a radio club meeting in Wellesley. “Jim heard me over the repeater saying we were stranded along the side of the road.  He hopped in his car and picked us up, and insisted we stay with him and Peg that night.” It left a lasting impression on Phil: he and his wife, Ariel, K9ERA, were new to Boston and they had few friends or acquaintances. “After that, we became fast friends. Jim was always pestering me to get a better antenna up in my Roslindale backyard so I could be heard on the traffic nets.”

WA1TBY was a great recruiter for traffic handlers.  Jim would get on the Novice band and engage in QSOs with Novices and always promote the traffic nets and traffic handling. That was how Lew Scott, W1CE (SK)  became active in traffic handling.  Lew went on to become active in the traffic nets above the section level.

Jim was a traffic handlers’ traffic handler.  One of his favorite sayings was “Traffic handlers don’t eat, sleep or drink, they just handle traffic”,  and “a traffic handler is always ready to take traffic”.

Jim served as the ARRL Eastern Massachusetts Section Traffic Manager until his illness took him from us.

“Jim went peacefully at home on the morning on December 19, 2000,” wrote Jim’s daughter, Sue Hatherley-Horton, N1TZY. “We had beautiful Christmas music playing and my mother, brother David and I were with him holding his hands. It was a very long illness but now he is at peace.”

Sue expressed her gratitude to the Eastern Massachusetts Amateur Radio community: “I want to thank you for all you did for my dad; you were part of the life he loved. I’m sure he will be CWing in heaven.”

Jim wrote this poem to express his love of Morse code on July 4, 1985:

CW Forever and Ever

You must have at times,
thought into the past,
where some things go out
while others last
What comes to my mind is the old Morse code,
That has weathered the storms
from any abode.

To talk with ones fingers
is surely an art,
Of any info you care to impart,
In most conditions
the signals get through,
While the same about phone
is simply not true.

Those dits and dahs
cut through the trash,
Of near by noise
or lighting’s crash.
To the sensitive ears
of the hams receiver,
Who records this data
with ardent fever.

He knows he’s doing
something unique,
(in such poor conditions,
To roger the message
that came off the air,
These brass pounders
sure do have that flair.

They say Morse ops
are a dying breed,
But don’t despair,
there’s always that need,
That when conditions get rough
for the new automation,
Be rest assured, there’ll be need
for your station.

CW is dying? Believe it never,
This mode will be ’round
forever and ever.
But one thing is sure,
what we really need,
Is to relay our knowledge
to the younger breed.

To carry the torch,
long after we’re gone,
To send Morse Code
thru the air like a song.
When at last,
Silent keys pull that lever,
We can rest in peace,
it’s CW forever.

[Thanks, Central Mass 2-Meter Net and Boston ARC “The Sparc” January, 2001]