In memory of our friend,
Frank Montgomery - W5JWM
April 1, 1924 - December 30, 2011
Obituary from the Houston Chronicle January 1. 2011:
Gilbert Frank Montgomery, 87, of Houston, TX passed away on December 30, 2011. Frank graduated from Reagan High School and the University of Houston. He became a ham radio operator as a teenager and then served as an Army radio operator in Europe during WWII. Known as W5JWM, he was an active member of the Texas DX Society. He was a member of Baptist Temple and was retired from Emery. Ernestine, his loving wife. preceded him in death. He is survived by daughter Sherrill & husband Billy Spies; daughter Denise & husband Ken Kunze; son Steve Montgomery & former daughter-in-law Julie; grandchildren Jonathan & wife Rachel Spies, Jessica & husband Ryan White, Katherine Kunze, David Kunze, Sara Montgomery and Nicole Montgomery; and six great-grandchildren. His family gathered for a private burial.
In mid-December my wife and I made a trip to Illinois to spend the holidays with family in Illinois. Before our departure, I called Frank to wish him a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, and that I would call as soon as we returned home. I could tell that Frank had slowed down a lot recently and couldn't quite summon the energy to make club meetings the last couple of months. I believe his last TDXS meeting was October at Los Tios Restaurant. Our usual daily telephone conversations became more infrequent and often a lot shorter than normal. Larry W9AJ had been experiencing the same. Little did I realize that the conversation and well wishes would be our last. I was shocked and saddened to receive news from Frank's daughter Sherrill Spies, that Frank had passed away on December 30th, 2011 at the age of 87. I considered Frank a "larger than life" father-figure in the world of DX and life in general, a favorite Uncle, an "Elmer", and most of all perhaps, my very best friend. The following radio biography comes from my own personal experiences with Frank and from the comments and eulogies posted to the TDXS mail reflector (see below) from all his friends, admirers, and his family. If I have left anyone out, or forgotten any important detail, my apologies. This is big loss for all of us.
In 1924, Gilbert Frank Montgomery was born in Waco, Texas and his family moved to Houston when he was 2 years old. He grew up in the Heights and Graduated from Reagan High School, attended Rice University and later graduated from the University of Houston in 1950 with BS degrees in Electrical Engineering and Math. Frank was first licensed as W5JWM at the age of 17 in 1941 just before amateur radio was shut down for the duration of WWII. Frank and two of his high school buddies all took their FCC exams together in Galveston. Frank's very first QSO was on May 7, 1941 on 7160 kHz with his friend "Skip" Duller W5JVR (now Dr. Nelson Duller Jr. - W5ODN). On December 7, 1941 we were at war with Japan and all amateur radio activities were suspended. When he joined the military, his radio skills were a valuable asset when he served as an Army Radio Operator in the 273rd Infantry Regiment while stationed in Europe. His stories of wartime adventure in France were numerous and colorful. Frank's first post war QSO took place on April 13, 1946 with W1GXY on 10m phone.
After the war, he returned home and married his sweetheart Ernestine, and started a family. From the 1950's through the 70's he lived at 1608 Kowis Street, just off Hardy and north of Little York where he built a 100 ft tower. It was the tallest structure in the area, and many gave directions with the tower as a reference point. His kids helped him install lightning rods and screw anchors by sitting on the wrench while he walked in a circle to bury them. Before that, lightning would sometimes flash across the den according to Sherrill. Frank had his hands full trying to keep the kids from climbing the tower. One summer day in 1957, Sam Neal was a newly minted Novice with the call KN5LZJ and had gone to visit his aunt and uncle on Cromwell Street. The next morning Sam walked outside and saw that beautiful 100 ft Vesto Tower and walked over and introduced himself to Frank who said he was "W5 Just Wasting Money". Frank had a love of crazy callsign phonetics and enjoyed telling everyone of all the humorous combinations he had heard over the years.
Frank joined the Texas DX Society in 1974 as member number 25. Although he was an accomplished DXer, he also enjoyed being part of the Texas DX Society contesting efforts with multi-multi operations from the K5LZO, NR5M and the "Lumberyard" contest stations and the club's adventures to Nuevo Laredo, Mexico for several of the ARRL DX contests. Although Frank didn't have a particular interest in personal contesting, he would get on the air to give the TDXS aggregate score 100,000 points or so in most Sweepstakes. Eric NM5M reported that Frank was amazing to watch on 75 meters as he knew every gray-line opening by heart. Frank also knew the band segments of all the EU/Russian stations. Amazing since the band was pretty fragmented in the 70's and 80's. One of Bob K5WA's favorite memories of Frank was when he came out to Sammy Neal’s place in the 1980's for a CQWW DX SSB contest and just sort of sat back to advise Bob of when to move to certain spots of a particular band. Bob was flabbergasted when he told him to spin the receiver down to 3625 (or somewhere around there) and just call CQ "for a Russian" up in the US portion of the band. Sure enough, first call, there came a gaggle of Russians! Apparently, it was some kind of Russian DX net and Bob was fresh meat. Bob felt like just letting Frank take over right there and then but he was having such a good laugh at being proven right that he didn’t need to operate at all!
Frank was one of the earliest recipients of the new ARRL DXCC Phone award when he was issued certificate #195 on January 23, 1950, and later achieved #1 DXCC Honor Roll - Phone on at least two occasions. He was also issued the CQ WAZ-Phone certificate #223 on January 11, 1964. This was long before the advent of DX clusters and "easy DX", and was earned the hard way by spinning the dial and listening. Frank had the uncanny ability to recall many of those early contacts and enjoyed telling stories of those DX accomplishments. He often told me that he thought Gus Browning W4BPD (SK) could handle a DX pile-up better than anyone he had ever experienced and there was no doubt whether your contact was in the log or not. He and Clarence Sharp K5DX (SK) always had a friendly competition on who could "bag the new one first" or who had the most DXCC entities credited. Many of his favorite contacts were from the golden days of AM Phone. In spite of not being active on HF for the last 15-20 years, Frank still had 351 entities credited. I'd be happy with just half of his deleted country count!
Frank had the opportunity to visit the W5SJS station about a year ago when K5WA, K5TU, NZ5I, KG5U and NW7DX had a little post Field Day pow-pow out there. Frank even enjoyed a Mexican food lunch during the trip. When he got to the station and saw the K5WA PLC control system, he knew exactly what all the electronic do-dads did even though he hadn't had a working station in a long while. Since Frank clearly understood intuitively the workings of the whole thing in one glance, there was no sense for Bob to patent the thing, or pursue any "top-secret" negotiations with the U.S. government for remote control of drones. He loved spinning the dial to let Bob know if the antennas were working or not (and most of them met his approval). It was his dream to leave assisted living and have an active station again, but it was not to be.
Frank had several interesting careers in his life, including stock brokerage, electronics, and air freight. Tom, K5RC's earliest memories of Frank go back to 1964 when Tom worked at Madison Electronics and Frank worked down the street at Hamilton Electronics. "We got to see him nearly daily and "enjoying" his big cigar. He was also a member of the West Gulf DX Club and a regular at the monthly bashes at Captain John's restaurant. Frank was a real character and a credit to the world of DXing."
When Joe W5ASP was introduced to TDXS back in the late 70s was when he started listening to the "Big Three" i.e. Frank (W5JWM), Sharp (K5DX), and Lee (W5DOZ) who gathered every Sunday evening on the 96/36 repeater and swapped stories of their DXing "in the good old days". For years Frank was the de facto "voice of the 96/36 machine"...seemingly always available to those passing through. The mere mention of the stock market would evoke words of wisdom...well worth listening to. His other love was Basketball and the Houston Rockets. Back in the mid-80's the mere mention of "hoops" during the morning commute time could cause Frank to "lock-up" the repeater for half an hour or more with his latest predictions. Many of us reached our places of work without the chance to sign out. Frank must have wondered where everybody went when he took his hand off the mic! Henry W5HNS said he was also fond of college basketball and always had an "expert" opinion during March Madness days.
We will all miss the wit, wisdom, advice and friendship of one of the icons of TDXS. A true fraternity brother many affectionately called "Uncle Frank". Until we meet again old friend...
Steve - W9DX
More about Frank's life in his own words: February 2008 TDXS Bullsheet
From the TDXS Mail List:
I just got back home from a holiday vacation and saw the note about Frank. I’m so glad he was able to make it out to the W5SJS station about a year ago when K5TU, NZ5I, KG5U and NW7DX had a little post Field Day pow-pow out there. Frank even enjoyed a Mexican food lunch during the trip. When we got to the station and I showed him my PLC control system, he knew exactly what all the electronic do-dads did even though he has not had a station in a while. He loved spinning the dial to let me know if the antennas were working or not (Most of them met his approval).
My favorite memory of Frank was when he came out to Sammy Neal’s place in the 80s for a CQWW DX SSB contest and just sort of sat back to advise me of when to move to certain spots of a particular band. I was flabbergasted when he told me to spin my receiver down to 3625 (or somewhere around there) and just call CQ “for a Russian” up in the US portion of the band. Sure enough, first call, here comes a gaggle of Russians. Apparently, it was some kind of Russian DXer net and I was fresh meat. I felt like just letting Frank take over right there and then but he was having such a good laugh at being proven right that he didn’t need to operate at all. Keep that gray line hopping OM!! - Bob K5WA
A true "OM" of ham radio. RIP OM. - Chuck W5PR
Frank was a very fine guy and a good friend. He called Ford stock right to the end. - Jim NN5O
That is very sad to hear. He will be missed. - Dale KG5U
Sad news indeed. Frank seemed to have taken a liking to me and Winnie. During my two years as TDXS VP, Frank would occasionally call to help me with dinner meeting locations. This was obviously before the community center arrangement. Liked to listen to him give his "expert" opinion on college basketball teams during the March Madness times. Thought about him recently and wondered how he was. - Henry W5HNS
Very sad news indeed. He will be missed. - Doug WB5TKI
RIP OM - Kim K5TU
We will miss Frank, a real gentleman with a kind word for everyone. He would occasionally check in on the morning show when it didn't interfere with his breakfast. RIP Frank. - Ron K5LLL
I'm very sorry to hear of Frank's passing. He was a real credit to Amateur Radio. I wish I had known him when he was active on HF. 73 OM. - Paul W5PF
My memories of Frank go back to 1964 when I worked at Madison Electronics and he worked down the street at Hamilton Electronics. We got to see him nearly daily and "enjoy" his big cigar. He was also a member of the West Gulf DX Club and a regular at the monthly bashes at Captain John's restaurant. Frank was a real character and a credit to the world of DXing. 73 OM! - Tom K5RC
Frank was an icon of the TDXS and always interesting and colorful to talk to. My memory of Frank includes a late night phone call I made to him to alert him to his last DXCC country. He was ecstatic after getting on and working it. I don't remember what the country was. This happened in the late 1970's so it was before P5. Frank will be missed. RIP. - Richard K5NA
Sorry to hear about Frank. He was a great guy to talk with. He will be missed by all for sure. - Frosty K5LBU
He was quite a character and a good friend. RIP - Tom N5EA
That's sad news...Frank was a classic...a man of many talents and a true DXer. I was introduced to TDXS back in the late 70s when I got to listening to the "Big Three" i.e. Frank (W5JWM), Sharp (K5DX), and Lee (W5DOZ) who gathered every Sunday evening on the 96/36 repeater and swapped stories of their DXing "in the good old days". For years Frank was the de facto "voice of the 96/36 machine"...seemingly always available to those passing through. The mere mention of the stock market would evoke words of wisdom...well worth listening to. I believe Frank worked his last "new one" with me at the Lumberyard. Rest well, old friend. - Joe W5ASP
Frank was quite a character and was an exceptional operator. Although I don't think Frank had a particular interest in contesting, he would get on the air to give TDXS 100,000 points or so in most Sweepstakes. Frank operated with the K5LZO team in several DX contests and was amazing to watch on 75 meters as he knew every gray-line opening by heart. (Frank also knew the band segments of all the EU/Russian stations. Amazing since the band was pretty fragmented in the 70's and 80's). The amateur community has lost a real gentleman! 73, Eric NM5M
Goodbye old friend...always loved to hear him say "Just Wasting Money". - Barbara WB5RUS
I certainly agree with your sentiments regarding Frank. Long absent from DX not in spirit and as you stated, an icon in our hobby. I loved his wit! - Mike N5MV
We all remember Frank and his Rockets and the stock market. A real DXer as well. Frank and Earnestine are together in a better place. 73 Frank. - Jim N5DC/7
Sorry to hear about Frank. He was truly a gentleman and a credit to the club. He always had a story to tell and advice to share. He will surely be missed. Bob K1TU
I am saddened to hear of the passing of Frank W5JWM. In the summer of 1957, I was a freshly minted Novice - KN5LZJ and went to visit my aunt and uncle on Cromwell Street. The next morning I walked outside and saw that beautiful 100' Vesto Tower and walked over and introduced myself to Frank who said he was "W5 Just Wasting Money". - Sam Neal N5AF
I am very sad to hear of Frank's passing and thank you very much for informing me and Melanie. Frank was a true and sincere friend of mine. We shared many lunches and phone calls over the many years about our common passion, investing and the stock market. As for ham radio, Frank was a "real" DXer. He made the Honor Roll when it meant something, an achievement deserving the upmost respect, and he stayed on it for many many years. Melanie and I will miss him and his beloved Ernestine, both super people and a pleasure to have known. 73, Bill K5GA
The phone calls once or twice a month will be the immediate loss with Frank's passing. But I carry with me lots of shared laughs of his stories of DX competitions with Max Busick (W5GJ - SK) and Sharp (K5DX - SK). I never tired of hearing Frank recount specifics of some of Gus Browning's more memorable contacts, especially with those guys running a few extra kilowatts. And those stories from WW2 were great. Rest easy friend, I'll see you in a few. Larry - W9AJ
Frank visited me back in the early 1960's when I lived in Natchez, MS. He looked at my homebrew gear and Hammarlund receiver then went outside and saw my Gonset Tri-Bander 3 el on an 18 foot boom up at 50 feet on a telephone pole he scratched his head and wondered why I had done so well in contesting and Dxing. The truth was I resided in a rare state, lived in a low density subdivision and had no real groundwave competition that he had in Houston. Then he listened to the receiver and noticed that signals seemed to jump out at you with virtually no QRN or line noise. Talking with "Jumping with money" as I knew Frank he gave me a lot of ideas. He encouraged me to get my college degrees but enjoy amateur radio as he did since WW II. He told me he wished he could be 18 again. RIP Frank "Jumping with money". Dave K4JRB K5MDX in Mississippi.