It is with a heavy heart that I pass along the news that Sister Alverna O'Laughlin, WA0SGJ, has become a silent key on the 30th of May, 2016. She died among friends at Assisi Heights, the Franciscan residence in Rochester, Minnesota where she had been retired since 2007. She was 84 years old - and many of those years we knew her as "Sweet Grape Juice", WA0SGJ, her ham radio callsign suffix.
Sister Alverna joined the fledgling "Handihams" in the earliest days when founder Ned Carman, W0ZSW, came up with the idea of sharing his hobby of Amateur Radio with people who had disabilities. Ned enlisted the help of a group of local nuns, the Sisters of St. Francis, on April 30, 1967. Although their first action was as weather watchers during a thunderstorm that passed through Rochester that day, the Sisters were committed to helping Ned with his new project, and several received their licenses. Among them was Sister Alverna O'Laughlin, WA0SGJ, who would eventually become the Educational Coordinator for the Handiham System at Courage Center in Golden Valley, MN.
It was at Courage Center in 1991 that I met Sister Alverna when I started a new job as the manager of the Handiham program. Her kindness and patience lifted me up, helping me to learn how to work with our Handiham members - just as she worked tirelessly to help those around her succeed and reach their goals. Think about how many people joined the ranks of Amateur Radio over the decades, thanks to the guidance and encouragement - and hard work - of Sister Alverna! She knew that radio would open a line of communications between those she taught and the rest of the world. Making friends on the radio, learning the math and science of electronics, and striving toward goals were all things that would make the lives of Handiham members better.
Sister knew that.
She was on a mission.
You were going to succeed in earning your ham radio license.
And she was right.
"73", Sister Alverna. You are at peace now and your lifetime of good work lives on in all of the thankful people you helped.
Patrick Tice, WA0TDA