I was saddened to learn of the passing away of a good friend this week. Charlie Laterra, N2LHD has become a Silent Key.
I knew Charlie before I even formally met him. How is that possible? I am not a big 2 Meter repeater guy. I get on occasionally; but 95% of the time I just listen. I remember back in the early 90s listening to Charlie N2LHD on the ETS of NJ (Greenbrook) repeater. Charlie was always involved in QSOs with Al Blasucci W2KOG. Both of these Sons of Italy had some good QSOs on the repeater. In fact, Charlie always had good QSOs on the repeater no matter whom he was speaking with! Charlie was a natural born Ham. He could talk the ears off an elephant; and everyone always loved to talk to Charlie. Charlie was one of those Hams that EVERYBODY knew.
Anyway, I remember listening one day and hearing Charlie tell Al that he had been diagnosed with throat cancer and that he was going into the hospital the following week for a laryngectomy. You could tell that Charlie was devastated. The thought of possibly never being able to talk again was eating him up. So then and there, I decided to send him a QSL card. I wrote something to the effect of, "You don't know me because we've never met. But I hear you all the time on the Greenbrook repeater and I'm sending you my wishes and prayers for a speedy recovery". After the surgery was over; Charlie sent me a "thank you" on a QSL card which hangs on my shack wall to this very day.
Charlie was soon on the air again, using an electric larynx. He learned to talk all over again and could often be found in his truck - steering with one hand and shifting with the other; all the while holding a microphone and yakking away on some repeater. Charlie sold provisions to Italian Delis all around the greater NorthEast. Charlie had more friends on his route than you can shake a stick at.
I formally met Charlie when I was introduced to the Piscataway Amateur Radio Club, by my friend Bob W3BBO. Charlie was one of the pillars of the club. He was quick with a joke and a smile. He was always concerned enough to pull you on the side to ask how you and your family were doing. Charlie genuinely and sincerely liked people.
When ever PARC ran an auction; or got involved in Field Day, Charlie could always be found in the middle of the action. I can't even begin to tell you how many Pasta machines or spaghetti bowls or espresso machines that he donated to be used as door prizes at our yearly auction. And when Field Day came, Charlie was always helping Norman KB2SBB (another SK) to be our field cook. And these two characters knew how to cook. At the zenith of PARC's existance, I think our Field Day efforts became better know for the food than for our operating or our scores.
Charlie was into photography - big time! He was always taking pictures and was proud of his cameras. Since he knew I made my living in the pro photo field; he would always ask me questions about this and that, which lens to use, which flash to buy. I never, ever tired talking with Charlie about photography. He had an infectious enthusiasm that was special. I have a photo that Charlie took. In 1994, a bunch of PARC members took a trip to Dayton Hamvention together. It was Rich AA2KS, Bob W3BBO, Bill W2WK, Rich W2PQ, Charlie N2LHD and Jimmy N2LFI and myself among others. When we stopped to gas up, Charlie pulled us over to the side and snapped a group picture. I wish he had brought along a tripod so he could have put the camera on self timer and gotten into the picture himself. Bob W3BBO gave a copy of the photo in a frame engraved with "Dayton 1994" on it to all of us who went that year. This photo is another prized posession in the shack.
And that year was the best time I ever had at Hamvention - ever! We caravanned from Piscataway, NJ to Dayton, Ohio. Several of us were in Richie AA2KS's brand new Cadillac and we followed Charlie who was driving his Linguini (Lincoln Town Car). I distinctly remember Richie AA2KS making us wipe off our muddy shoes with a towel before he would let us in his brand new car! Those were good times. I also remember that Rich W2PQ, or someone, brought along a cassette of "The Jerky Boys" - we howled all the way to Dayton!
When I met my future wife and kind of strayed away from radio for a bit to make plans to get married, buy a house, start a family; I still managed to catch Charlie from time to time on the repeater. He was always there to say "Hi" and to ask how things were going. Once I moved to South Plainfield, whenever Charlie would see my red Jeep on the road, he'd always give me a honk. Charlie lived by the credo that family and friends were everything. In the end, material possessions were not much of anything. You were rich if you had a lot of friends and family; and love.
Charlie, you were the richest man I know. God bless you and keep you and shine His light upon you. Look down on me from time to time and send a prayer my way if you can. I'm going to miss you.
73 de Larry W2LJ
Blogger's Note: I recently ran into Tim Halloran KC2PLK, one of the Hams from the Technician Class that we gave last year. Tim was telling me that at the last ETS of NJ meeting, the discussion of the evening naturally centered around Charlie. It seems that Charlie was out and about his normal sales route in the Philadelphia area. He checked into a hotel for the evening; and was feeling pretty bad. He called "911" from the hotel and was rushed to a local Philadelphia hospital. He was diagnosed as having an anyeurism. He was being prepped for surgery to repair the anyeurism when it gave out.