Editor’s Note: The following obituary was penned by Karl Freienmuth, AK6SP, Bill’s son; the Antietam Radio Association sends all of our combined sympathies to him and his loved ones – please allow Bill’s story help to inspire you to achieve greatness
Bill Freienmuth, W3OIO, passed away on October 10, 2021 at the age of 101. Born in August of 1920, Bill became interested in the technical aspects of radio while in grade school and began a correspondence course in radio and television while in high school. He built a crystal set and heard news of the Will Rodgers and Wylie Post crash in Alaska when he first powered it up. That was August 15th of 1935 – Bill’s fifteenth birthday.
After high school he enrolled in the University of Kansas School of Engineering an Architecture. Beginning in 1939, he worked part-time as an operator in the KU AM station, KFKU. He also joined the Kansas National Guard as a… radio operator. His unit was mobilized in December of 1940. He earned his FCC First Class Radiotelephone Operator License, permitting him to operate broadcast radio stations, on August 4th, 1941, and followed with his first amateur radio operator license on August 16th, 1941. He was stationed then at Camp Robinson, Arkansas, and at the time the FCC wouldn’t issue an amateur station license to operators with a military address. His unit had an amateur station license, W9HWW, which he operated until December 7th.
He applied to Officer Candidate School and was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the Signal Corps upon completion of OCS in August of 1942. A year later he completed electronics and radar courses at the Radiation Laboratory (“Rad Lab”) at MIT and Harvard in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In January 1944, Lt. Freienmuth and 12,000 of his comrades crossed the Atlantic on the Queen Mary to the European Theater of Operations. As a radar officer in a unit of the Ninth Air Force, he became chief technical officer of a Forward Director Post, a radar and communications station that directed fighter-bombers to their targets in support of the Ninth Army. He was awarded the Bronze Star and later promoted to Captain.
Returning to Kansas and KU after the war, he was awarded his first station call, W9GUH, when he finally had a civilian address. He worked as chief engineer in the studios of the university’s broadcast station. He received his Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering in June of 1947, then joined a consulting radio engineering firm in Washington. DC, designing and proving the performance of broadcast radio station antennas.
In 1948 he joined an engineering firm in Silver Spring, Maryland, which ultimately became Vitro Corporation. There he engaged in communications and electromechanical systems research and development for applications ranging from deep oceans to a high-altitude balloon borne astronomical telescope and nuclear power plant controls. He retired as a Senior Vice President of the 6,000-employee company in December of 1984.
“Double-U three obo idum obo” moved from his long time QTH in Laytonsville, Maryland to the Quincy Village retirement community near Waynesboro, Pennsylvania in 1996. At that time his XYL, Easter, wasn’t surprised when he set up in-ground radials for his vertical in the common grounds outside their cottage, as well as a random-wire in the attic. Easter passed away in 2010, just short of their 67th anniversary. Off the air for the past three or so years after moving to the community’s assisted living facility, he called Ham Radio his “major hobby” for eighty years.
Karl Freienmuth, AK6SP