Kenneth Piletic 83 of Streamwood, formerly of La Salle. Passed away September 3, 2020 in Mercy Hospital Bakersfield, CA.Kenneth Alan Piletic was born into the Piletic family August 1, 1937 to parents Mary Bildauer- Piletic and Joseph Piletic in LaSalle, Illinois. He was baptized at Roch’s Catholic Church. Ken attended St. Bede Academy graduating in 1955 and graduating from St. Bede Junior College in 1957. He then earned his Associate in Applied Science Degree from DeVry University in 1959. Ken was a beloved son, brother, Uncle, Great Uncle, cousin, and friend to many.
Ken as everyone knew him: W9ZMR, traveled the world. He visited every state in the USA except Hawaii which was a trip to be taken late 2020 or early 2021. He also traveled as far as Australia to visit his cousin Phil Harth while he was stationed there. And if he couldn’t travel the state and meet someone personally, he met you on the airwaves and it felt just as personal. The same could be said about his letters.
Ken was a Ham. And anyone who met him on the radio or in person became his friend. He was a life member of the American Radio Relay League (AARL) and received his half century award but exceeded that half century mark and proudly displayed his certificate of 60 years in ARRL. Ken, W9ZMR was an Extra Class. He sat on panels, graded tests and offered advice and friendship. (Volunteer Examiner: AARL/VEC)
Aside from being in Amateur Radio, his greatest hobby ever was recording old time radio shows. Hence the club was birthed and he was the eldest member to date and the original Co-founder of the ORCATS; Old Time Radio Collectors and Traders Society. They (the club) discussed, traded, collected, preserved, and propagated old time radio (OTR) during the net.
Ken was beyond his years in technology. Whatever the technology was at the time, he learned it and began to step into the next forum, transferring from large 18” reel to reels to 16”, to 14”and finally to 7” reel to reel. He then moved onto the VHS tape, the CD, the Floppy Disk, the memory card, and finally the thumb drive. Ken had the largest collection in the Nation at one time and was mentioned in the Daily Herald newspaper on August 14, 1974 in Streamwood, Illinois in for recording and holding over 16,000 tapes of famous radio shows including but not limited to Jack Armstrong, The Shadow, Suspense, Amos and Andy, Baby Snooks and the Green Hornet.
As a young man, Ken also tracked Sputnik that launched October 4, 1957. He conveyed that his radio connection and tracking was more accurate than the “other guys” that were in charge of accurately reporting the information. His interview is heard world wide on the web by googling Ken Piletic Sputnik Interview that was recorded June 4, 1995.
Ken not only had a passion for how things worked, he had a passion for fixing thing and building things. He had a big interest in electricity. It really all began when he was a child and he asked the right question about light waves and radio waves. “How can you plug in a light and it turns on and you can see the light, but when you plug in a radio, you can’t see the but you can hear voices?” That sparked his interest in electronics and radio from the beginning.
When Ken was a child, he used to talk through string canned cups to his neighbor down the alley, then it was walkie talkies and finally through the radio waves. He was so intrigued about sound waves, that he built his first radio when he was only ten years old. In his own words, “Let’s go back to 1947. I built a cheap ‘crystal set’ radio from parts given to me. It only received one station; WLPO, but it worked. It was quite small, so I took it around the neighborhood to show “everybody” including the man who ran the radio repair shop on Eighteenth Street. He must have been impressed because he gave me a job. He paid me a few cents to clean out the dust from inside large console radios with a vacuum cleaner. Later, he taught me how to use the tube tester and I tested all the tubes in these same radios. I spent quite a bit of time in his shop after school and Saturdays, and I learned a lot. That lead to a job in 1953 working at Sigmund Electric Company. I learned how to make adjustments and became the official picture tube changer. I also took service calls and repaired TV’s in the home of customers.”
Ken’s curiosity for how things worked lead to his education at DeVry University. In December 1957, he enrolled in DeVry Technical Institute; an electronics school in Chicago, Illinois. Within 2 years, he learned everything from basic electronics to designing electronic circuits. Along the way, he qualified and earned a first-class commercial radio telephone license with ship radar endorsement which was granted by the Federal Communications Mission in 1959, his graduating year. Ken graduated with an Associate in Applied Science Degree.
At which time, Ken was still in the National Guard. In the Fall of 1955, he was recruited to join the Illinois National Guard 33rd Division and on October 6, 1955 in Ottaway Illinois, he was in the armory of Head Quarters Company First Battalion 129 Infantry Regiment. He was in the radio section of the communication platoon. In 1964, he was discharged with the rank of Sergeant E-5.
During his National Guard years, just one year after graduation at DeVry in 1960, a number of large companies interviewed Ken and offered him employment. He chose to go with IBM in February 1960 and was hired on as a Customer Engineer in the Data Processing Division. Ken worked at IBM for 31 years and retired at 54. He worked part-time at Radio Spirits for six years after retirement helping a friend. And he spent the next 30 years traveling in his motorhome, camping, visiting museums; one of his all-time favorites the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, going to Ham Fests to meet up with friends and to buy/sell electronics.
Ken lived in Streamwood, Illinois from 1964 to 2019. He also lived in Alma, Arkansas, his Winter Station Location from 2005 to 2018 where he’d “ham it up” with his friends in AR and surrounding areas.
In 2019, Ken moved to California to spend his 80’s with his family in Bakersfield, California. He moved in with his niece Rita Lowe and her husband Shannon. His favorite pass time became reading, fishing, going along on metal detecting adventures, going to the beach, day camping trips, going to the movies, family get togethers at Birthday parties and holidays, trips to the book store, evening watching Jeopardy with the fam, and meeting new friends daily at the Senior Center where he could play chess, games and exercise. He also spent every night with his headset on listening to the radio – something he never outgrew.
Ken lived to be 83 years old and passed on September 3, 2020. Your voice will be missed by many, your jokes, your laughter, and your stories. But it’s not forever, it’s until we meet again in Paradise. Bye for now.
Ken is survived by Niece Lorita (Rita) Lowe, (Shannon Lowe, nephew in law), Nephew John John (Angie Johnson, niece in law), Niece Rebecca Bever (Shane Bever, nephew in law), Nephew in law Dennis Hughlett, and numerous Great Nieces, Great Nephews, and Cousins. Ken is proceeded in death by Mother Mary Bildhauer-Piletic, Father Joseph Piletic, Sister Mary Gertrude Piletic, Niece Theresa Ann Hughlett, and Nephew Joseph Elton Johnson.