It is my sad duty to report the passing of Walter Siren (W5RNH) of New Orleans. He died July 15 around 5:30 p.m. Central time after he was disconnected from life support about two hours earlier.
He entered the hospital the day after returning from Las Vegas with what they said was kidney failure and went down from there. He was both a longtime ham and member of the ACB. Walter Siren was 77, born October 16, 1927, died July 15, 2005. He is survived by his wife Lola and daughter Donna, both longtime ham radio operators and ACB members.
As most of you could not be at the funeral services for Walter Siren, I thought I'd write a few words of tribute so that you could get a taste of what it was like to say farewell to him and of what his life was like.
Silent key Walter Siren, W5RNH, is now in his final resting place. We gathered on July 18 at Lake Lawn Funeral Home in New Orleans to say farewell to Walter. There was quite a turnout of mourners to celebrate his life and accomplishments.
The funeral service was simple yet very dignified and included four of Walter's favorite hymns: "Rock of Ages," "Precious Lord, Take My Hand," "It Is Well with My Soul," and "He Leadeth Me." Pastor Michael Fox spoke the eulogy and offered a final prayer.
After a brief graveside service, many gathered for a post-funeral dinner given by his church, which featured lots of good food and fellowship.
We will all miss Walter, but the turnout of people (considering that everything, including the visitation, was on a weekday) spoke volumes as to what he meant to all of us.
One thing about Walter that comes to mind is this: My first computer training was in 1987 at a class given by the University of New Orleans. I took the class immediately after the one taken by Walter and his daughter Donna. But it would be another six years before I was able to purchase my first computer, which was a DOS-based 486. Not having had the benefit of my own computer at the time of the course, I had forgotten much of what I had learned, so I more or less had to start over again from the ground up. It was Walter who helped me a lot during those days. It took patience and hours of work to get everything going, but whenever I needed help or got myself into trouble, he was always there to help. If he couldn't help right when I called, he would offer to do so later at a time that was agreeable to both of us.
Another thing I remember is that after his retirement as a vending stand operator, his former clerk took his location over, but later decided he would be happier clerking for someone rather than running his own location. Walter came out of retirement temporarily and went to the location to help him work it during his last two weeks for no pay, just to make sure his last two weeks would run smoothly and that the facility would be in good hands when it was transferred to its new operator.
He also was one of the people who got me interested in ham radio. I have known Walter and his family all my life. His wife Lola taught braille to several sighted mothers of blind children when we were in elementary school, including my own. This is a tremendous loss not only to me but to all who knew him. But while we all feel this loss, he would want us all to keep going and do our best, because life goes on.
(For the benefit of those who may not be familiar with the term "silent key," it is a term used by ham radio operators to refer to one of their own who has died, and W5RNH was Walter's ham call sign.)
-- Harvey Heagy (N5HAU), Metairie, La.
For me, Walter Siren has been a convention fixture as long as I've ever gone to conventions, since 1976. If I didn't run across Walter, Donna, and Lola somewhere in the hotel, I'd hear Walter's familiar friendly voice on the floor sooner or later. He took a keen interest in the affairs of ACB and in the procedure used by the organization in getting its work done.
Walter had a great ability and desire to learn new things. In the mid- 1980s, he came to TeleSensory Systems to learn to use the Optacon, even though he was planning to or perhaps had already retired. I well remember one evening I invited him to dinner, and he nearly wore me out pressing me on very technical and obscure points of VersaBraille and computer use for equipment of that time. Many people half his age lacked the understanding of such details and still may to this day.
I was extremely proud to appoint Walter as the moderator for the ACB-L listserv. He served in this role in some difficult circumstances from time to time. His kindness, equanimity, and caring for people were evident and great strengths that were well-used while filling this role.
Walter never hesitated to let you know his opinion on a topic, particularly if you asked. But he could do so while exhibiting respect for other points of view, even while pressing his own. He was by no means a "know-it-all," and truly used his opinions on a topic to work on furthering his learning and understanding along with that of others.
All the best, Walter. Help us remain positive if and when you can, as you did for us for so very many years.
-- Chris Gray, San Francisco, Calif.
I am very saddened to hear about Walter. I have known Walter for about 25 years. He was active in the ACB group in New Orleans when I was a member of that organization. Dr. Bob McClain was the president. Walter was very active in ham radio at that time as well as ACB. He was the one who introduced me to the ham community in New Orleans and was the first person I met when I first moved there from Texas. He was one of those fellows that was funny when he wasn't trying to be. I especially liked Walter because he was a straight shooter. If you didn't want to know what he thought about something, no matter what it was, then you'd better not ask him because he would tell you, and it wouldn't be sugar-coated. I always considered that as one of Walter's assets and a characteristic I greatly appreciated. We have lost a very special member of our organization.
-- Ron Milliman, Bowling Green, Ky.
Thank you for sharing this sad news with those of us who knew Walter, both via the Internet and in person. What a kind, and morally upstanding, respectful and much respected man Walter was. I remember with pleasure and gratitude the excellent way that Walter moderated the ACB-L listserv. His respectfulness and obvious commitment to allowing people to express a diversity of opinions and to share information freely were standards that garnered our admiration and emulation.
I know how much his family cared about him, and he about them, and I am sure that he will be very much missed, not only by his nice wife and daughter, but also by countless friends and acquaintances.
Thank you, Walter, for sharing so much of your time and your personal commitment to truth and to democracy with so many of us from ACB, from Louisiana, and the blindness community as a whole. We will remember you fondly, and we will miss you.
-- Penny Reeder, Montgomery Village, Md.
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