The Reverend Paul Bittner, W0AIH, of Fall Creek, Wisconsin, died doing what he loved on October 31, when a tower-climbing mishap claimed his life at his well-known antenna farm. The ARRL Life Member and Maxim Society member was 84. A member of the CQ Contesting Hall of Fame and retired Lutheran pastor, Bittner was a well-known and respected figure within the Amateur Radio community and a prolific contester and DXer. His call sign was nearly always present in most major operating events, and even in a few lesser-known contests, and news of his tragic death and condolences and accolades quickly spread among those who knew him best.
“No one was more generous, loving, and encouraging to others than the Reverend Paul Bittner,” said Mike Lonneke, W4AAW, in a post to the Potomac Valley Radio Club (PVRC). “He called me last week to chat about what he and Mary were up to, like getting material together for their always long and hilarious Christmas newsletter. He also knocked me out with the latest of his funny experiences in his ‘Rent-a-Rev’ sideline.” Bittner officiated at the June 2 wedding of two well-known midwestern contesters.
Bittner was licensed in 1949 and held the same call sign ever since. He and his wife, Mary, WB0PXM, moved in 2000 to “The Farm,” a 120-acre spread in west-central Wisconsin. The first of the more than 50 towers began sprouting there before their arrival in 1982. As a ham, he enjoyed multi-multi contesting and DXing. His favorite band was 160 meters, and his favorite contest was the CQ World Wide DX CW Contest. Bittner’s son-in-law — Paul Husby, W0UC — operated VHF contests from The Farm and was a multi-multi regular as well.
“His station stands as a great monument to a selfless man of great grace and remarkable achievements,” Lonneke said. “Paul once told me that AIH stands for ‘already in heaven.’”
Contester and former ARRL staffer Dave Patton, NN1N, described Bittner as “such a good man and truly great ham.” W1AW Station Manager Joe Carcia, NJ1Q, noted that Bittner had volunteered to operate as W1AW/9 as a headquarters station in the 2019 IARU HF Championship to celebrate his decades in ham radio.
NCJ Editor Scott Wright, K0MD, said that Bittner helped to build stations for many midwestern hams. “He was a mentor to hundreds of hams, and his enthusiasm for contesting was infectious,” Wright said. Bittner had said he wanted to be buried with a bible, a telegraph key, and a climbing belt.
“Thank you for giving so much of yourself to me and the rest of the ham community,” said contester Scott Neader. “We will never forget you.”