Bill Cheek, editor of the "Experimenters Workshop" column in Monitoring Times and author of a series of books on scanner modifications has died.
Though always a controversial figure, there is no disputing the fact that Bill devoted his life to the love of radio and technology. We at Monitoring Times are deeply saddened at the loss of our friend and colleague. We will have more details on Bill's amazing life and further information on how you can help the family in the upcoming issue of MT, as well as here on the website (as information becomes available).
A letter from Cindy Cheek
Additional testimonial by T.J. Skip Arey N2EI
by Bob Grove, Monitoring Times publisher
While it may be invitable for all of us, it is no less tragic when we lose someone who has left his mark on our industry. With the passing of Bill Cheek at noon on Saturday, July 22, 2000, a chapter of radio closes.
Bill was one of those dynamic forces who cut his niche in radio
at an early age. Active in CB during its halcyon period of the Ō70s, he
formed his own company, Commtronics Engineering. His publications, products,
and services were eagerly sought by radio hobbyists.
Most MT readers will remember Bill primarily for his Experimenters Workshop column, one of our most popular pages. Scanner modifications were his delight, adding memory channels, extending frequency coverage, clarifying audio -- whatever would improve a product. In more recent years, that included dragging us into the world of microchips and computers, which he correctly forecast as scanning's leading edge.
Other readers, especially those active on the Internet news groups
and bulletin boards, were often embroiled in BillÕs art of self-expression.
Oh, he was opinionated, but he was also erudite, and one could almost imagine
the smoke pouring from his hot keyboard as he sat late at night, replying
to someoneÕs moral outrage -- no holds barred!
I was one of those. I couldnÕt believe the things that Bill was
saying about me, all the while writing for me! Readers couldnÕt believe
IÕd keep him on staff, much less continue to pay him!
But the more I responded to Bill, the more sense he seemed to make.
Sure, his choice of language seemed somewhat inhospitable, but that was
BillÕs style. We became good friends over the Ōnet, and our mutual respect
resulted in more years of BillÕs contributions to the radio art.
Bill mellowed with time, but the unexpected, early morning, violent
intrusion into his home by federal and local police authorities took its
toll on both Bill and his wife Cindy. Bill had been openly advertising
and selling hardware and software that investigators thought might have
been in violation of federal law. The case has never gotten to court.
As if this sobering experience werenÕt enough, it was soon followed
by the discovery that he had incurable cancer. While Bill vowed to fight
it, the progress of the disease was immutable, and Bill succumbed.
The MT family expresses both our appreciation for the incalculable contributions Bill Cheek made to radio during his active lifetime, as well as our most profound sympathy to Cindy and her family in their loss.
What can I say? Where do I begin? Thank you for the condolence card you and the staff at MT sent to me.
Please forgive me for not writing sooner, but with Bill's passing my plate has been pretty full. He left a huge hole in my heart (not to mention our business). We were not only husband and wife (of 15 yrs) but we were partners and best friends. We sat three feet away from each other 24/7 working at what we considered our "fun".
I saw the update about Bill on MT's web site and wanted to touch base with you about some facts you, your staff, and your readers might want to know.
As you know Bill had been diagnosed in Sept 99 with lung cancer and was given three to four months life expectancy. The battle was about to begin. He went through a hellacious time of chemotherapy, with the end result showing a miraculous 60% shrinkage of the lung tumor. In March of this year he had experienced an occasional vision problem so the doctors performed a CT and MRI of his brain to "rule out" any spread of the tumor. The news was not good. The cancer had indeed metastasized to his brain. The spread was so vast that there was no hope of continued chemo, no radiation, and no surgery. We were dealing with a death sentence!
At that time (in March) the doctors said he only had "two to three months left, probably less." The battle got tougher day by day. As you may have known, Bill was a very proud and independent man, who hated to be mollycoddled. He hated to "give in" to a walker, and eventually a wheelchair, but his balance became more wary almost daily. The last month or so he couldn't walk at all and his speech became more and more inarticulate as the days and weeks waned on.
When the time came that Bill could no longer even stand, it was time to bring in a hospital bed. I slept on a hide-a-bed right next to him (in our living-room) for the last two months, as he would frequently awake in the middle of the night confused and bewildered. Hating to be kept "down", many times he would try to get out of bed.
By now, Bill needed help with all aspects of life such as eating, drinking, hygiene, and even turning over in bed, etc. His Quality of Life was my number one objective. I took care of him as long as I could, and to the best of my ability, however in spite of my taking care of him 24/7, the time came when I grew weary, not getting any sleep, not eating, and basically neglecting myself.
By this time, Bill could no longer stand, sit, walk, eat or even roll over in bed. Against my better judgment, but having no recourse, I admitted Bill to the hospital on Wednesday, July 19, 2000. I thought this was the hardest thing I ever had to do. When the ambulance arrived for his transport to the hospital, he was frightened but cooperative.
Once he was settled in at the hospital, he kept saying, "I want to go home!" By now he was very incoherent and I didn't know if he meant he wanted to go to our home or home to God. Once again, I thought this was the hardest thing I'd ever endured.
As the days passed, he tried to speak, but his speech was so mumbled and garbled that I couldn't understand him. He was trying to "be heard" but became very frustrated. I was with him in the hospital from early morning until late at night on Wed, Thurs and Fri. When I arrived on Saturday morning, his breathing had become so labored it was frightful. He was getting Morphine injections every hour to keep him calm and unagitated. However, Bill lost his battle with cancer at noon on July 22, 2000. I had just told him (over and over) how much I loved him when he died in my arms. Letting him "go" was definitely by far THE HARDEST thing I have ever endured in my life.
Bill was a great man, who loved life! He hated to go to bed at night and couldn't wait to get up the next day to get back to work. Often he would work himself into a frenzy, until he solved the problem at hand, sometimes getting only two to three hours sleep. Often referred to as a work-a-holic, Bill always told me that he could get all the sleep he wanted when he was dead. I hope he is getting all the rest he missed here on earth, as he surely deserves his piece of peace. He always gave 110%. He always went "the extra mile." As his wife, best friend and partner, I will miss him until we are together again in eternity.
It is very hard for me to go out in our "shop", and it will take some time to get reorganized, but I know Bill would want me to go on, and I know he would also want his "life's work" to go on. Thus, I will continue making the back issues of his newsletter, The World Scanner Report, available to those still interested, as well as the CE-232 Scanner Computer Interface.
If anyone wants to help with Bill's astronomical medical bills, a special account has been established for this purpose. Contributions can be sent directly to:
Union Bank of California Acct# 0771354719 8359 Mira Mesa Blvd San Diego, CA 92126 Attn: Rhonda Smith (619) 230-3800 payable to: Cindy Cheek, trustee for William D. Cheek, Sr.
or, if you prefer, directly to:
Cindy Cheek PO Box 262478 San Diego, CA 92196
Please extend my personal thanks to everyone for all the prayers and continued support
Cindy Cheek ~ COMMtronics Engineering PO Box 262478 ~ San Diego, CA 92196 FAX ~ (619) 578-9247 E-mail ~ email@example.com
by T.J. Skip Arey N2EI
Bill Cheek was my friend. He was also my colleague for many years on the staff of
Monitoring Times Magazine. He was my mentor throughout the process of getting my first book
RADIO MONITORING A HOW TO GUIDE into print. And, as Lord Buckley once said, "He
stomped on the terra!"
Many people love the radio hobby. Bill lived it. Bill's career path consisted of not just
playing around with radios on his off hours but making a living and caring for his family by way
of his skills in the radio hobby. Bill was no dilettante, he "walked the walk." That's a level of
commitment few of us are willing to make to any hobby. But Bill did it and because he did, a lot
of us grew in our understanding of the radio hobby.
Bill was a Hacker and proud to be called one. Some of you no doubt remember the days
of the CB radio boom of the late seventies. Bill was right there, in his incarnation as "Dr.
Rigormortis", the master of CB modification and improvement. But he became best known to
the radio hobby world through his three scanner related books: The Scanner Modification
Handbooks Vols. 1&2 and The Ultimate Scanner. In these books (and for those of us who
couldn't get enough and subscribed to his World Scanner Report newsletter) he challenged us to
lift the lids on our various receivers and "hack" them in the pure sense of the word, not in the
way that the press has bastardized the term "hacker" in recent years. In doing so, Bill taught
many of us that there is nothing to be afraid of and that, with a little advice and guidance, almost
anybody could take a good radio and turn it into a great one. Bill was also a leader in getting
many folks to move into the modern world of computers. And even in that realm, he had us
pulling open the cases and making changes. Bill always had something new to show us.
Bill wasn't just a mentor, he was a motivator as well. As I'm writing this I'm sitting near
my radio desk and I'm looking at the various rigs I have modified based upon Bill's ideas. Over
the years I've performed so many changes I've lost count. I never would have done most of those
mods if it wasn't for Bill's special way of writing. Bill had a way of getting his readers "fired
up". You can't imagine how many times I'd arrive home from work to find one of Bill's articles
in Monitoring Times or World Scanner report and I would skip dinner and head right for the
basement to try out his latest idea. As someone who writes for public consumption I envied his
ability to excite his readers and did my best to learn this aspect of my craft from him.
Bill loved a good discussion, argument...who am I kidding??? Bill love verbal sparring
better than anyone I've ever met. He brought more than a few internet newsgroups to life with
his challenging points of view. You could choose to take up the argument with him, but you had
better have your intellectual tools sharpened and your facts right because Bill seldom took
prisoners. I would give anything to have had the presence of mind to have archived the many
"back and forths" we had over the years. Bill was a master of the argument for certain.
Even in facing his illness, Bill maintained the true Hacker Heart. He researched standard
and alternative treatment methods. He sought out the latest information. He noted the various
changes in his health brought about by his illness and commented upon them. He approached
even his life's crisis as he lived. Trying to figure out how the damned thing worked!
Bill's gone now. My heart goes out to Cindy and the family. As great as my personal
sense of loss is it can be nothing compared to theirs. Still, as I noted to a group of my radio
hobby friends. Twenty years from now we'll still be talking about Bill. We'll still be applying
his hacking methods to radios and life in general. He gave us the gift of himself for all too brief a
time. But his spirit will be with us forever.