W3AZ - October 22, 2011

W3AZ - William E. 'Bill' Leavitt
PVRC Christmas Luncheon
December 15, 2000
William E. 'Bill' Leavitt
Silver Springs, MD
QCWA # 4875

On Saturday, October 22, 2011. Loving husband of Helen Leavitt for 53 years; devoted father of Alexandra Evans (Jon) and William F. Leavitt; brother of Robert Leavitt passed away. Relatives and friends may call at Borgwardt Funeral Home, 4400 Powder Mill Rd, Beltsville, MD on Monday from 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 pm. Funeral service will be held Tuesday, November 1, 2011 at Colesville Presbyterian Church, 12800 New Hampshire Ave, Silver Spring, MD at 11:30 am. Interment will be at the Cedar Hill Cemetery.

Memorial contributions may be made to the American Heart Association, 4217 Park Place Court, Glen Allen, VA 23060

W3AZ - William E. 'Bill' Leavitt Bill passed away quietly in his sleep the morning of October 22, 2011 in Silver Spring, Maryland. He is survived by his wife, Helen; brother, Robert; daughter, Alexandra (Jon); and son, William.

Bill was born on a farm near Crete, Nebraska in September 1921. In 1933, Dr. Wightman, a physics professor at Doane College in Crete, offered a youth course in Morse code. Bill enrolled in the course, having already built some crystal sets and a telegraph set from an article in Popular Mechanics. Dr. Wightman was a ham, W9BB, and Bill's first mentor. Bill received his first license, a Class C as W9YFD, in May 1936. Dr. Wightman administered the exam.

Bill had built a two tube regenerative receiver but had no transmitter. He built a two tube TNT (tuned-not tuned) oscillator using 71A-type tubes, with a tank coil wound from an old car's gas line. The coil was wound for 80 meters, but he found he could work 160 meters by parallel tuning his antenna. Most parts came from old broadcast receivers and some spark gap parts his father bought at a farm auction. Although unused for years, Bill kept this transmitter all his life.

W3AZ - William E. 'Bill' Leavitt The farm wouldn't be electrified until after WW-II. 45-volt B batteries ran the receiver. An old dynamotor ran the transmitter. A 6-volt battery powered the dynamotor and filaments on both transmitter and receiver. The batteries were charged by a wind generator he built using an old car generator. When fully charged, he could run the station at 13 watts.

Bill operated as W9YFD through college. He became a big fan of field days. He studied for two years at Doane before transferring to the University of Nebraska. Nights were split between studies and working in a radio repair shop. He finished college the summer of 1944, receiving BS degrees in physics and mathematics.

Later that year, Bill moved to Washington, DC to be an electronics scientist at the Naval Research Laboratory, initially working with radar systems. The move brought a new call, W3MFJ. By the late 1940s he'd joined the Potomac Valley Radio Club, where he became interested in ham contests. He was a PVRC member the rest of his life.

W3AZ - William E. 'Bill' Leavitt Bill bought a house in nearby Temple Hills, MD in 1954, which soon had a 40-foot tripod with rotating beam in the backyard. NRL had him working on Moon Bounce. 1958 brought marriage, and children not long after. Work brought involvement in Echo-1 and Echo-2. Field days gradually came to an end, but he still enjoyed ham contests.

The family relocated to Accokeek, MD in 1967. There was plenty of room for a three tower farm. The main one eventually reached 92 feet, which he continued to climb into his early 80s. His call was changed to W3AZ in the 1970s. He was now designing communications satellites at NRL. In 1978, Bill was awarded the Superior Civilian Service medal, the Navy's second-highest civilian award, for his work on FLTSATCOM.

Bill retired from NRL in 1979, taking a position at Satellite Business Systems. Several SBS satellites were carried by the Space Shuttle, including SBS-3 on November 11, 1982, the first commercial payload launched from the Shuttle. He retired from SBS in 1986, but did consulting for several more years.

In 2006, Bill and Helen moved to the Riderwood retirement community. Other hams there were forming a radio club. Bill eagerly joined, designing the shack's coupled antenna. In July 2011, Bill was awarded the 75th Anniversary Award of the QCWA, of which he was very proud.

Bill was an Amateur Extra, Full Emeritus member of Sigma Xi, and Life Member of QCWA, ARRL and IEEE.

Incidentally, he was interred with a color copy (not the original, the family is keeping that) of his 75th anniversary award tucked away inside his suit jacket.

William Leavitt Jr
aka - Bill the Younger