It’s never easy to share bad news about a significant loss.
Wally Ritchie WU1Y passed away in Florida on 1 July 2021 from heart failure.
We have lost a big part of our team. I, and I know many of you, join his friends and family in mourning his passing.
While he defeated cancer with the same energy and style that he overcame so many other daunting challenges in his life, he was unable to recover from a series of setbacks that began in late May and worsened in late June.
Wally was our Primary Investigator for the Phase 4 transponder project, is a primary contributor to the documentation, design, fundraising, and grant process for the transponder, and was responsible for the specification and vision of Remote Labs. He defended, mentored, and supported the team and Open Research Institute work on numerous occasions. He was a true subject matter expert in space and terrestrial digital communications, was an experienced manager, and a talented entrepreneur. He lived and traveled internationally, was well read, and never failed to provide real backbone exactly when and where it was needed.
Professionally, Wally was a Principal Engineer. He had extensive experience in systems engineering and firmware development. He was an expert in Field-Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGA). He held several high-level manufacturing and management positions during his career, and knew digital signal processing in depth. He was devoted to education and improving student accessibility to high technology.
I met Wally through Jonathan Brandenburg at the 2016 TAPR DCC. We hit it off instantly. We had a lot in common. Wally had repeatedly attempted to volunteer through AMSAT and had not gotten a positive response. He was thrilled to find out that people were working on the problems that he thought were important for amateur satellites, and he dug in and selflessly volunteered from that day forward. Our collaboration extended to open source medical devices, regulatory work, a variety of grant applications, and some attempts at some really fun proprietary ventures. I met his wife Debbie and his son Keegan.
He did presentations, volunteered at the HamCation booth, and organized several workshops. He lead design reviews and wrote papers whenever they were needed. He did whatever I asked and always let me know when I was doing a good job, or where I could improve.
I learned so much from him and will miss him very much.
While it’s not possible to “replace” someone like Wally, we will keep going with the same spirit. He had great confidence in our ability to achieve our goals. I’m not inclined to let him down.