Ralph N3VT, was one of the original advisors for our Explorer post 621, which focused on the ham and CB radio hobbies. The post started in the late 1974 or 1975 timeframe, and it was the job of Ralph, who then held the call WA3SNR, along with Carl W3NWS, to reign in this rag tag band of raw and undisciplined CB'ers, who showed up at the inaugural meeting and eventually joined the post, and mold them into responsible radio operators and experimenters. Ralph was an engineer by trade, and was very well versed on R.F. theory and I learned a lot from him during his teaching phase of our weekly meetings. I guess he qualifies as my first real "Elmer", as he answered (or at least tried) my seemingly endless string of questions about the mysteries of R.F. theory and general electronics. Ralph was a straight-up, no-nonsense kind of guy and he often shook his head at some of the antics that we played on the CB band. He cringed when he listened to the overmodulated sound of one of our member's "loud and proud" radios, and once declared in a huff, during a rare lapse in patience, that I wouldn't be happy until I managed to build a megawatt amplifier and burned the grass off of my front yard (to this day we still refer to any large amplifier as a "megawatt grassburner"). In spite of our obvious differences in radio priorities and maturity, he had patience and always managed to make his lectures interesting. He also lined up some interesting guest speakers. One of them brought in a small scale UHF antenna range, where we then learned how to measure the gain and radiation pattern of various types of antennas. Another guy brought in a homebrew computer equipped with a simple BASIC language interpreter, which was loaded from a cassette tape recorder (Remember, this was 1975, and home computers were still 3 or 4 years off), and demo-ed it. One day, Ralph invited us over to visit his ham shack. I remember ooh'ing and aah'ing at the piles of electronic flotsam that he had somewhat neatly arranged in piles in the basement. He showed us his ham station and then made a few contacts on his H.F. rig and gave us each a turn at the mike. I probably made an ass of myself by instinctively saying "10-4" during my turn, which is considered a taboo on the ham bands, but it was interesting experience anyway.
Ralph didn't have a CB, but after caving in to mounting pressure from us, he picked one up (A basket case of course). As usual, he had a lesson to teach, and he showed us that you could make a dipole antenna, and use common lamp cord for feedline, at a cost of $0. He was on the air on 11 meters, but the shortcomings of his frugal antenna system showed through, as his signal was not the greatest. He was given the handle of "Fuzzchops" after the huge mutton sideburns that he wore. We occasionally talked to him on the CB band, but he didn't care much for the free-for-all atmosphere and our blatant disregard for many of the FCC's rules, so he never spent much time there. Guilt by association, I guess.
Ralph's ham license class at the time was Advanced, and he had been quite satisfied at that level. But towards the end of our Explorer post's existence, and after some prodding from Carl, Ralph took and passed the Extra Class ham test and then took the vanity call N3VT (for "Voice of the Twenties"), a reference to his "other hobby" of collecting antique radios. At that time, he claimed to have the second largest collection of Atwater Kent radios. These were radios which heralded back to the infancy of broadcast radio, and Ralph enjoyed collecting them. Not too long after that, he retired from G.E. and moved to Long Island, New York which was the last time I saw him. A QRZ search shows that his call is still listed, but has recently expired. He would have to be in his 80's by now. I wish him well, and hope that he knows that he made a difference.
Update: Curiosity got the best of me, and I started digging around the internet for any information on Ralph. I was surprised at how easy it was to find some. It seems that he had built up a fair amount of fame in the amateur and antique radio circuits over the years. The good news is that he had been quite active in, and dedicated much time to, the antique radio circuit, most notably Atwater Kent and had even created a museum dedicated to them, at his home in Orient New York. He had also written and published at least one book on the subject. This was an activity that he loved, and when you get to see the efforts of your passion come to fruition, it can be very gratifying. Unfortunately, the bad news is that he passed away in May 2002. So much for sending him an E-mail.... Here is a link to his obit. He obviously influenced many more people than just me.......