"He Touched So Many Lives" Chip Margelli, K7JA (SK)
From ARRL de WD1CKS@VERT/WLARB to QST on Thu Jun 1 16:11:44 2023
The airwaves are markedly dimmer this week, social media is filled with heartfelt tributes, and industry leaders are mourning. Longtime fixture of amateur radio Charles "Chip" Margelli, K7JA, passed away after a brief illness. Margelli was an ARRL Life Member.
"The light and love of my life is gone," Margelli's widow Janet, KL7MF, posted on Facebook. "He enjoyed 60 wonderful years as a ham and 45 happy years with me. Between DXing, contesting, ragchewing, moonbounce, satellite, writing, designing, building antennas, and Field Day, there was never a dull moment," she wrote.
Margelli was well known in the amateur radio industry. His friendly approach and love of customer service marked his professional career. He served for 29 years at Yaesu Musen Co., Ltd. until becoming the Director of Sales and Marketing for Heil Sound Communications Inc. in 2006. In 2010, he joined CQ Communications Inc. as the Director of Advertising Sales. Later in his career, he worked with InnovAntennas before retiring from Ham Radio Outlet as an I.T. Specialist in 2022, according to his biography.
"Chip was a great contester," said ARRL Director of Operations Bob Naumann, W5OV. Margelli held first place in many national radiosport contests. "He never had anything bad to say about anyone. He was a fixture at all [of] the big events and was just a great guy to be around," said Naumann.
His love of people took him around the world on DXpeditions and missions of goodwill related to amateur radio. In 1984, he was instrumental in helping the Chinese Radio Sports Association re-establish amateur radio in China. He served a similar role in Albania and operated from Cuba. In 1990, Margelli and his teammate Mike Wetzel, W9RE, won a silver medal at the first-ever World Radiosport Team Championship, held in conjunction with the Goodwill Games in Seattle.
His operating prowess spanned modes, cultures, and languages. "Chip was a real DXer who could be eating an ice cream sandwich while sending CW at 50 WPM, all while watching his smartphone for DX spots and carrying on a conversation with a visiting ham," said author Gordon West, WB6NOA. "When working phone, he would speak Japanese when the band was open to the west and speak Russian [to] an early morning 20-meter contact, and [then] Spanish when working stations to the south - plus, more languages [than] I could ever figure out, with a perfect accent," West added.
Margelli was genuinely curious about many subjects. "If someone brought up a topic about who knows what, he would just go with it.," said Janet Margelli. "There didn't seem to be anything that did not interest him," she said. Margelli is remembered as someone who "just loved people [and] loved entertaining them," she said.
In May 2005, Margelli took amateur radio to global late-night TV. On an episode of The Tonight Show, host Jay Leno pit Morse code against SMS text messaging to see which was a faster way to communicate. Margelli went up against the US champion cell phone text messenger. Long time friend Katie Allen, WY7YL, said Margelli didn't feel pressure to perform for the global audience nearly as much as he did for fellow hams. "He always told me that it was kind of thrown together at the last minute, the biggest pressure was that Dayton HamventionĘ was right after and if he blew it, he didn't want to show his face at the event," said Allen. He didn't blow it - Margelli and his partner Ken Miller, K6CTW, beat the speed of the text messengers.
Margelli is a 2018 inductee to the First Class CW Operators' Club (FOC), a 2021 recipient of the E.T. Krenkel Medal, and was inducted into the CQ Magazine Amateur Radio Hall of Fame in 2006. He was a life member of AMSAT and the Quarter Century Wireless Association.
More than his impressive career as a radio amateur, those closest to Margelli are mourning the loss of a man they describe as caring and compassionate - always willing to help creatures big and small. "Chip and Janet have a beautiful yard. I remember one time he ran out in a pouring rainstorm to cover a bush that had Monarch butterfly larvae in it," said Allen. "Who else would get soaking wet just to make sure butterflies make it through a rainstorm?" she said. Allen once was in need of a kidney transplant, and Margelli offered up his own. "He called my husband - before they even met and said, 'If Katie needs a kidney, I have an extra,'" recounted Allen.
There has been an outpour of messages and remembrances of Margelli circulating on social media. While reaching out for this article, ARRL received many thoughtful comments about Margelli that cannot fit within one story. We have assembled some of the photos and writings on the ARRL Facebook page and YouTube channel, where users are encouraged to share their memories to honor the impact Margelli had on them.
As Margelli was privately battling cancer, he was spending time building cables and other equipment for ham clubs to use in the upcoming ARRL Field Day 2023. His final acts of service will be put to good use in the operating event. Janet Margelli said there is not a memorial service planned. "If Chip were here, he'd say the best way to honor him is 'just go kick butt on Field Day.'"