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Ronald G Martin



09 Sep 1907 - 16 Mar 1999



Ron Martin, Colonel U.S. Air Force (Retired), died on March 16, 1999 in Napa, California, at the age of 92. He was a life member of DERA and had been a member of our Executive Council for several years.  He was a native of Clearlake, Iowa. His radio career started in the Spark Era. Ron had been a resident of Napa since 1960.

Colonel Martin learned Morse Code from his father at the age of 9 and received his first amateur radio license 9HW, later 9AHU in 1918, when he was 11.  In 1924 he moved to California and obtained the call 6AYC.  Before he finished high school, he went to work as a wireless operator on a lumber schooner on Lake Superior. After his family moved to Berkeley, California, he became a radio operator for Dollar Shipping Lines and made nine trips around the world. 

In 1928, he was hired as a communications supervisor for the San Francisco Examiner, where he ran press wireless station HUP for the Hearst newspaper chain. During that period, he took part in many historic events such as the around-the-world flight of the Graf Zeppelin.  He set up wireless stations at Hearst Castle near San Simeon, CA so that Mr. Hearst could maintain continuous contact with his extensive news network.  From 1936 until World War II, he worked for Pacific Telephone Company as a systems engineer in California. 

In 1942 during WW-II,  he was commissioned a First Lieutenant in the Army Air Corps. He served with the 68th AACS Headquarters, Asheville, NC managing worldwide communications for the Army Airways Communications System. He met his future wife, Fran, while assigned to the AACS headquarters.  He later was assigned to the Pacific Theater in Manila and Japan.

Recalled to active service in 1949, he was stationed at Andrews AFB and the Pentagon.  During the 1950's, he was assigned to the Global Airways Station at Andrews Air Force Base, and served as a senior telecommunications policy advisor at the Pentagon.  During this time, President Truman appointed him to the special task force that created the White House Communications Agency. 

He was one of the chief architects of the post-WW-II Military Affiliate Radio System (MARS), which continues to serve emergency communications needs of the Department of Defense. He continued to be very active with the Air Force MARS program from his home station AFA6ZF until his death.

Colonel Martin served as Pacific Division Vice Director for the ARRL from 1958 - 1968. He also served in many other capacities within the ARRL including ARRL East Bay Section Communications Manager.  At the time of his passing, he was an Assistant Director in the Pacific Division and an Assistant Section Manager in the East Bay Section.  He was also a contributor to QST.  He retired from the Air Force in 1967 and then returned to his old position with Pacific Telephone Company until 1972.  He worked in public relations for Christian Brothers’ Winery from 1973 to 1978.

Widely known as operator of Amateur Radio Station W6ZF in Napa, CA, he provided disaster communications and engineering support to worldwide relief efforts. 

Ron was a Life Member of the:

American Radio Relay League (ARRL)

Society of Amateur Radio Operators (SARO), Society of Wireless Pioneers (SOWP)

Old Old Timers Club (OOTC)

Pacific Amateur Radio Guild (PARG).

He also served as an officer in the Oakland Radio Club, and the McClellan Amateur Radio Society. Other organizations included Telephone Pioneers, Antique Wireless Association, American Right of Way Association, and the Silverado Amateur Radio Society. 

Prior to WWII Ron was a key communication participant in several international exploration activities including the flight of the Southern Cross to Australia, the Dole Race to Hawaii, the Admiral Byrd Expedition to the South Pole, Sir Hubert Wilkins Expedition to the Antarctic, the maiden flight of the China Clipper, and the dirigibles Shenandoah, Macon, and Akron.  The annual Armed Forces Day operation at the US Naval radio station, NPG, at Skaggs Island, at the north end of San Francisco Bay, was a highlight each year for Ron for the some thirty years he coordinated several clubs’ simultaneous operations for this event.  During the 1950s, 60s, and until the mid 70s, W6ZF (a great CW fist - and known as “RM”) produced and transmitted the West Coast Bulletin consisting of ARRL news and propagation forecasts on a weekly basis on 80 and 40 meters simultaneously. 

He is survived by Fran, his wife of 51 years; two grown children, Sharon and Gene; and three grandchildren.

Ron was a wonderful gentleman and active ham. He will be missed!

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