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The History of "Waldofar"

Written by Tom Gunderson, W9SRV

Let's see, where do we start? Before we get into the history of the repeater itself, we need to introduce the "Waldo" component of Waldofar. My grandfather was Waldo Gunderson, WA9WLN. He was a long time ham and fathered in three generations of hams! My dad (Dan, WB9ACN), my mom (Sharon, KA9IIT), my sister (Tricia, N9WDG), and I are all results of his love for the hobby! Some of my earliest memories are siting in his "radio room" and working DX with him and waiting for my chance to call CQ! He would get us together to go to the Tri-Town Radio Club meetings, and always got the radios and antennas in shape on the cars for our family trips down to the lake.

Now on to the system. In the fall of 2004, several years after the passing of my grandfather, my dad and I were sitting on a surplus of ham gear form his estate. While its great to have extra radio goodies we both felt there was a better use for the gear than collecting dust on our shelves. That's when the brainstorm hit us. I was looking for a new challenge, and a couple of the main UHF repeaters in the area had gone "offline", so we decided to use the proceeds from selling the extra gear and put up a new UHF repeater system for the family and all the local hams to use. In our opinion it would be exactly what he would want, to share the joys of th hobby with everyone! Hence "Waldofar" was born!

So the search began for equipment, antennas, feed line, a site, and knowledge! I had been involved with a few other repeater projects in the past, but mostly the antenna side, not the equipment side (Brian, WD9HSY, never let me play with the gear! ;) ), so needless to say this was going to be a learning expierence! I had the rest of the family for moral support so away I went. The first purchase on the system was a Motorola Mitrek system that came with the Decibel Products duplexer, controller, 100+ ft of 1/2" hardline, and a few other goodies from a guy in California. It was a working system out of the box, but a little rough around the edges. Within days I had the system running in the house! The antenna was a 1/4 wave mag mount stuck inverted on the drop ceiling grid in the basement! Dad come over a few days later and we had the first conversation on Waldofar! A whopping 20ft on the portables from the office to the family room. A side note on this- the crystals that were in the radio were on 442.900, which here in Chicago is one of the Fishfar repeater frequencies. Had to keep it down!

Well, we got the crystals ordered up for our new frequency, 441.850/446.850, got it all tweaked up and in a cabinet, and put it through it's paces at the house. First I used it on my 2m/440 Workman UVS-300 mounted on the roof at @30ft. The system worked about 5 miles out on a good mobile. In the mean time I had purchased a brand new Decibel Products DB-408 antenna for the repeater site. It looked real pretty sitting in the box all shiny and new! But not less than a week after bringing the antenna home a good long time family friend who knew about our project call me up and said he had something I might be able to use. He stopped by my office a few days later and gave the cause a great gift- a Decibel Products DB-420! It was used but in great shape, and the price was right!

About a month later I hoisted the 420 on the roof and took down the dual bander. Now- the Workman actually has a higher gain "figure" on the spec sheets, but the DB-420 nearly doubled the range in the same place! Things were looking good. We didn't need the DB-408, so it was sold to another ham in California for his cause, and the proceeds from that enabled us to buy 175 ft of 7/8" Andrews Heliax! Winter set in by this point and the move to the site was put on hold pending better weather. We did put the repeater through its paces throughout the winter just to make sure the system was ready to go.

The weather broke and in April 2005 we were able to get a crew together and install the box at the site! It was a beautiful day, and the install went very smooth! I had a great crew on the job. Jim, KB9VR, John, N9DWE, Jerry, K9PMV, Lee, KB9SUY, and Henry, N9HVB turned out to get the job done.
We finished up around 6PM and wouldn't you know it, Dad was on his way home and was the first to make contact on the repeater at the new site. He was on his portable, inside the car, at 111th on I-57! The crew was, needless to say, excited by the contact!

As of 2006 the system was still chugging along. We have had one power supply go bad, and had to change frequencies to 442.375/447.375 due to an interference problem with a system in Michigan (Don't get me started on that!). The system has been very reliable and has out-performed out expectations by a ton.

Ok- In April 2007 Waldofar South went live! Tom Curchill, WD9DAU made contact with me and donated a full-blown Motorola Micor Repeater with duplexer and controller! Thanks Tom!! After some searching in the area, we were able to find a wonderful site and fill in big hole in coverage in the area. Brian, WD9HSY, Lee KB9SUY, and Jerry K9PMV turned out to install the new equipment and expand the system to more than twice the orignal coverage area!

Here in the spring of 2008 the system is still playing along great, and we have established a strong Skywarn Weather spotting network and the system has made the public service events like Drivin' the Dixie go smoothly. It has become a great asset for the Ham Radio community.

I would like to think Waldo is looking down and keeping tabs on it making sure it stays that way.

73' de Tom, W9SRV