Repeaters 146.625 PL 141.3 / 442.250 PL 141.3
Raritan Valley Radio Club
Awarded ARRL Worked All Countries Award; Member of the Raritan Valley Radio Club.
John Manna, W2AF, of Bridgewater is an easy-going man who likes to sit in his swivel chair in his HAM “shack” downstairs at his split-level home and talk to people around the world over Amateur Radio. In 2007 he was awarded the prestigious Amateur Radio Relay League’s Worked All Countries award. He recently gave a presentation on his Worked All Countries award at the Raritan Valley Radio Club, which meets in Hillsborough, where he is a member.
Currently he is working to keep an interest in High Frequency (HF) operations alive at the club which maintains a local “repeater” (W2QW). Amateur Radio is auxiliary radio service run by volunteers who can relay messages using their radio equipment during emergencies like the recent hurricanes in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico. In their spare time HAMs often build and learn to operate new equipment.
“Keep your ears and your eyes open so you can learn,” says Mr. Manna when asked what he would recommend to those just starting out in HAM Radio. Born and raised in Westfield, Mr. Manna served in Germany in 1952 and then returned home where he married his wife Claire who passed away in 2015. He built their first house in Garwood where he became a Chief of the Fire Department. He and his wife whose call sign was N2NQE and was also Extra class like John used to drive out to Sunset Lake in Bridgewater where they had friends who were active in HAM Radio so they decided to move there. He has a son Michael, WJ2Z, a daughter Bridget, N2WCT and even more licensed HAM radio operators in his family.
He built his first radio from a kit with a friend. It used one vacuum tube and allowed them to listen to the Police Scanner. Unfortunately, the super-heterodyne in the radio broadcast a lot of interference onto the neighbor’s radios so he had to shut it down. He learned how to operate on the HAM Radio bands instead. After obtaining his first license in 1958 there was no looking back and in addition to Working All Countries he also Worked All States of the United States on 75 Meters Extra Class Only and made contact in 2008 with an explorer stationed at the North Pole. He has QSL cards (postcards) in his book from the 355 countries he has contacted. For the Worked All Countries award he even contacted a Russian citizen who was operating in North Korea as well an operator from an island atoll in the South China Sea called Scarborough Reef. He is on the ARRL’s DXCC Honor Roll.
Mr. Manna stresses how important it is to listen carefully because a lot of other Amateur operators are also trying to contact some of the more distant stations. After trying for two days to contact Scarborough Reef, which although part of China can be considered a country because it is 250 miles from the mainland, the tide rose and the island atoll of Scarborough Reef was abandoned. It wasn’t until 2003 that he heard Scarborough Reef “calling CQ” again and was able to establish a signal report. He also has the prestigious Arabian Knights award signed by King Hussain of Jordan that confirms that he talked with 12 Arab countries.
“You don’t go into heavy conversation,” says Mr. Manna, who spoke with King Hussain, when you are making these contacts. The other station will ask for a signal report, want to know where you are from and possibly what kind of equipment you are using. Mr. Manna uses a Kenwood radio and has a G5RV and 40 meter dipole antenna at his house. He used to have a 60 foot tower with a 3 element triband antenna on it but he took it down. His neighbors have been understanding except when there was interference on the television before there was cable TV.
“There’s so much to it that you can’t just get it all in one day.” And what is next for John Manna and his Amateur Radio hobby? Besides trying to keep the Raritan Valley Radio Club interested in HF he intends to stay active in HAM Radio. After our interview he went back on the air to make a few more calls and contacts himself.