Virgil R. Sims, W9KFX, was born in Webster Groves, Mo on November 20, 1917 and died November 14, 2009 in Urbana, IL of metastatic pancreatic cancer. He was 91 years of age. He married Elizabeth (Betty) Jane Eastman of East St. Louis, IL in 1942. Betty preceded him death in 2005. He was also preceded in death by grandson, J. Adam Sims, in 1998. He is survived by a daughter and son, their spouses, children, and grandchildren: They are Drs. Georgiana and Tom Herzberg of Jacksonville, FL and Rev. Dr. John E. and Sharon V. Sims of Urbana, IL. Grandchildren and Great-Grandchildren are: Laura Herzberg and Kemal Colakel of Venice, CA; Steven Herzberg of Brooklyn, NY; Emelie and Tim Mies and their children, Grace and Nicholas, of Mahomet, IL. He is also survived by two sisters and their husbands, Verna and Edward Stevens of Frontenac, MO and Shirley and Donald Kern of Asheville, NC and their families.
Virgil worked in the engineering department of the Emerson Electric Manufacturing Co. in St. Louis, MO from 1940 to 1979 when he retired at age 62. During World War II, he facilitated the development and production of the F-15 fighter plane. During his work years, he attended engineering classes at Washington University in St. Louis and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Virgil had a great love for all kinds of instrumental music, was an accomplished ragtime piano player, and derived great pleasure from listening to music on WILL public broadcasting.
He was also a licensed Amateur Radio operator (a "HAM") from the age of 16 years (1933), with the call letters W9KFX, and was actively engaged in this hobby until 2007 when his health deteriorated. Over the years, he taught Morse code to HAM radio students, mentored Belleville, IL youth in this interest, and participated in many contests and international Field Days where "contacts" are made via short-wave radio throughout the world. He collected, and sent, detailed contact cards to & from all 7 continents and all existing countries established before 1998. He was an avid reader, maintaining an interest in national and world politics throughout his lifetime. This made him an interesting, informed, and engaging conversationalist.
Virgil also spoke fluent Spanish and, when living in Belleville, IL where he and Betty raised their children, he befriended English and Spanish-speaking personnel at Scott Air Force Base, using his HAM radio station to allow them to maintain inexpensive contact with their families throughout the world.
Virgil and Betty traveled extensively after he retired and particularly enjoyed visiting the American southwest and northwestern Mexico in their VW camper. They often stopped to visit friends; and, make new acquaintances via HAM radio during their travels. Virgil was very proud of his children and their spouses, grandchildren and their spouses, and great-grandchildren and often told his friends locally and in other parts of the world of their exploits and accomplishments. We will miss him.
At Virgil's request, his body has been donated to the Washington University Medical School in St Louis, MO. Remembrances and donations should be made to WILL Public Radio, 300 N. Goodwin, Urbana, IL 61801 or to the Urbana Free Library, 210 West Green Street, Urbana, Illinois 61801.