By Paul WA2JPJ (from the August 2005 PARC Newsletter) John, who maintained his intellectual curiosity and lively personality right up to the end, passed away August 2, 2005. His funeral mass at St. Agnes and interment in Orient was on Saturday August 6th. His family invited the mourners back to his home for a luncheon in his honor. They
didn’t plan on the violent squall that passed over the area Friday evening, knocking out power to that part of Orient. In the true spirit of John Rieger’s legacy, they coped with no power, no way to flush a toilet, no refrigeration, etc, by bringing in two portable generators and a port-apotty … shades of Field Day! The luncheon in John’s honor went off well despite the weather’s aftermath.
Although many PARC members paid visits to John in Eastern LI Hospital and later at his home, and John managed to check into the Wednesday evening PARC net, using his HT from his bed, the last PARC event that John attended was the Field Day outing back in June. He watched intently as members assembled the equipment and was particularly interested in watching young hams and hams-to-be take their turn at the controls of one of our rigs. His photograph at PARC’s Field Day appeared in the July 13th issue of Suffolk Life.
John Rieger was accustomed to being center stage. Back in the 1950’s he founded the first FM broadcast station on Long Island, WLIR-FM, broadcasting from a sub-basement of the Garden City Hotel, with its antenna concealed in the hotel’s cupola. His announcers referred on-theair to being in the “Lower Arcade” of the Garden City Hotel. Among themselves they described it as the “bowels of the hotel. It was a struggle to interest advertisers in this new medium. FM? What’s that? As an inducement to run ads on the new station, they would offer a new FMstereo radio (a novelty at the time) to anyone who would sign up. The recipient wouldn’t find out ’til later that the ONLY station the give-away radio would tune was … WLIR-FM!
John was a sailor. His beloved 39′ Pearson sloop took him all around Long Island Sound and down to the Bahamas several times. He particularly favored Marsh Harbour in Abaco Island. Being a perfectionist, John re-engineered and re-designed almost everything on that boat, the Prime Time. When his wife, Dore, became ill with MS, John would, for as long as he could, carry her aboard Prime Time so they could go sailing.
At WLIR-FM, his disk jockey was Ted Webb. Ted later became Commodore of the Orient Yacht Club. Once, while sailing in the area, John decided to dock Prime Time at the Yacht Club and check it out. He fell in love with the area, built a home there and eventually moved in full time.
Somewhat late in life, John became interested in Ham Radio. As he put it in an interview for the 10th anniversary of the founding of the Peconic Amateur Radio Club, John recounted his early experiences:
“Back in 1993, I had just become a novice-class amateur radio operator, and I was seeking a club. As it turned out, Radio Central was the nearest club. I joined, but I felt like a fish out of water. I was only a novice, and no one would talk to me. After two or three meetings, I said to myself, ‘what am I doing traveling 25 miles to go to a club where no one speaks to me?’
“Ralph Williams was a good friend, and I mentioned to him my feelings and intimated that we should organize a club out here and have our own repeater. That was the can of worms that I opened up! Ralph in his own way simply replied ‘well John, you started a radio station of your own, start a repeater!’ Wow! At that time we started to have Sunday morning meetings with Don [Fisher], Charlie [Burnham], Ralph [Williams] and myself, to discuss this project. I, in turn, made a presentation to the village board and described the advantages of having our own repeater.
To make a very long story short, we got permission about a year later to place our antenna on the Greenport water tower and house our equipment in our own cabinet below. “It took us about one year to get together all the necessary equipment to put together a repeater. During this time Ralph Williams obtained a clear channel from TSARC. Eureka! We had all the legal material to go on the air. 440.050, up 5.0, pl 107.2.
“At that time Ralph Williams was the trustee and the repeater call was N3VT. Later it was changed to W2AMC. N3VT was the first call we used since Ralph was the trustee of the repeater. We put in for a club call and we got KB2UID (I think). or something like that. The FCC required the club to have a call before they would issue a vanity call to us. We all got together and decided on a vanity call that would bring back memories of an old member of the first radio club in the area (Custer Radio Club).
“We had to choose between W2AMC, W2KOA, and W2ZML. The executive board decided that we should file for W2AMC which we were granted. Charlie Burnham subsequently filed to obtain the call letters W2KOA for our EOC at Southold P.D. As a result we were able to keep two of our old Greenport call signs alive and well on the east end. “W2AMC was Ray Bishop, who lived on Knapp Place in Greenport. He had a son, Ray Jr, but he passed away very young in his 50’s. His call was K2ADC. Ray ran a boatyard in Greenport, right near his home on Knapp Place and was a very active amateur on the 160 meter band along with W2KOA and W2ZML.
“Again, I stuck my neck out and thought that we should have a club. Don secured the library in Southold, I wrote up a release to the print and radio media, and we had our first meeting at the library. As I recall, we had about 5 or 6 hams that showed up besides the original four. We were on our way! If I recall, Dr. Ralph Grover, Stan Rubinstein, Brian Pillai, and Howard Malone were the first at the meeting.
“Ralph Grover became our first President. Then came the order to spell out the constitution and regulations which I believe Stan Rubinstein had a part in. Then came the PARC logo which was conceived by Penny Burnham.
“Baby, have we come a long way!