Lawrence (Larry) Earnest Nelson

Radio Operator → Radio Inspector

Joined the Department of Transport (DOT) in 1939

Retired from the Department of Communications (DOC) in 1971



Passed Away in 2013 - Scroll Down for Obituary  

Décès en 2013 - Avis de décès au bas de la page  



Larry Nelson was a radio operator and later a radio inspector with the Department of Communications. Larry wrote this account for us in Kaleden, B.C. in 1990. where he retired to in 1971. Larry is included in the group photo of the Whitehorse Radio Range Staff 1943 on page 13.




Larry Nelson


My interest in things electrical started in 1929 with attendance at the Provincial Institute of Technology and Art in Calgary, Alberta. The course in Practical Electrical Engineering was not completed for lack of finances and due to a nervous disorder.


In 1932 I saw my first Ham amateur radio station, operated by Bill Lawrie, VE4IN, in a grain elevator at Kirkcaldy, Alberta. He was very patient in teaching me the code and the rudiments of amateur radio. In those days the formalities of amateur exams and licences were treated very casually so I fired up my home-built station in the same year. We had no power at the farm so I managed to acquire a set of dry cell batteries from the rural telephone company. A hundred of these and a 201A got me a few contacts locally. My first distant station 'DX' was VE4HB at Ghost Pine Creek, on January 2, 1933. Unfortunately Ray is now a Silent Key.


In 1933 I had a visit from Bill Stunden, the radio inspector from Calgary and my operation was made legal with an Amateur Certificate and Licence VE4NN. My hamming continued spasmodically up to the present time with Packet, Teletype and all those goodies VE7CP.


In 1950 my wife Blanche got her Amateur Certificate and this made it possible to communicate home from the radio inspector's car when I was on the road in Manitoba. In 1972 my daughter Deanna got her licence and in 1984 my daughter Lorraine joined the Ham ranks.


In 1934 I took the commercial operating course at the Marconi School in Toronto. It was there that I met Bruce Marshall and thus began a very good relationship which lasted until his demise in Penticton in 1983. At exam time I decided to improve my employment chances by taking the 1st class exam instead of the 2nd class test. This proved to be a good move as I was taken on by the Ontario Forestry Branch right away.


From 1935 until 1937 I worked for Ontario Forestry Branch at its radio stations in Ontario at Hudson, Woman Lake, Goose Island and Red Lake. In Red Lake I met Blanche DesChenes and we were married in 1937.


In 1939 I joined the Department of Transport (D.O.T.), and we drove our 1937 Chev from Kenora, Ontario to my first posting at Coleman, Alberta. This was a small station near the Coleman emergency landing strip. Duties consisted of weather reports and communications for the very rare landings at the emergency strip of Trans Canada Airlines familiarization flights. On the trip to Coleman we visited Dusty Weaver at Maple Creek, Saskatchewan. Dusty was a skilled operator in Morse and Landline codes. It was great to meet him after radio contacts in the Ontario Forestry.


In 1938 I managed to get a posting to Calgary and reported to the Civil Aviation Engineer at the new Calgary Airport. The airport was just being finished and had no buildings of any kind. Jeff Williamson, radio engineer, arrived in due course and we started work on the radio range. Eventually a building from the airport in north-east Calgary was moved onto the new airport. This single building housed our range office, the meteorological service and the TCA flight service, including its transmitting equipment. It goes without saying that the din and confusion was horrendous. After some time S. A. Shatford, the new officer in charge, arrived on the station and the new administration building was used.


In 1940 I won the competition for radio inspector in Winnipeg and embarked on the inspection career which included station inspections, examination, interference location and the very distasteful job of prosecuting unlicensed broadcast listeners. In 1942 our department suffered funding cuts and I was sent to the Winnipeg Range and then to the monitoring station. When our department would not release me for active service in the RCAF I transferred to the Radio Range Station in Whitehorse, Yukon. Russ Travers was the officer in charge there, and when he left in 1945 I took over his post. This was a very interesting and pleasant assignment.


At the end of the war I transferred back to my old job in Winnipeg and back to radio inspector duties including the miserable prosecutions. In 1953 I was made inspector in charge of Regina and shortly thereafter broadcasting licences were dropped - what a relief.


In 1956 I returned to Winnipeg. One year later I moved to Ottawa to work with Frank Foster in broadcast licence processing. This was very interesting work but I found the working conditions in headquarters very difficult and demanding.


In 1961 I finally reached my long term goal of being appointed Regional Superintendent of Radio Regulations in Edmonton. This was certainly the highlight of my career and I enjoyed being in the swim of things at a time when many changes came about.


We left D.O.T. and became part of the new Department of Communications. We opened a second monitoring station at Fort Smith, NWT and started a new radio inspection office at Whitehorse, Yukon. This made our empire rather impressive with four inspection offices and two monitoring stations and a staff of more than 50.


In 1971 a reorganization of radio regulations resulted in the closing of the Edmonton regional office. At this point I elected to take early retirement rather than submit to a move to Winnipeg so close to the end of my career.


In late 1971 we sold our house in Edmonton and moved to Kaleden, B.C. where we owned a piece of property.


After two years of house building we enjoyed a happy retirement.


Obituary  -  Avis de décès

Lawrence (Larry) Earnest Nelson

1912 - 2013


Former Radio Operator and Radio Inspector Passes Away at the age of 100

Lawrence (Larry) Earnest Nelson

Sept 27, 1912 – Aug 24, 2013



Larry Nelson


Larry was born in a tar-paper shack near Rosemead in southern Alberta, the second of four sons to Agda and Nels Nelson from Sweden.  He had pleasant memories of his childhood on the homestead near Enchant.  Times were tough but he and his brother Ed amused themselves by doing and making things with whatever they could put their hands on.  His father taught him early to handle horses, fix anything, and work independently, a work ethic he carried through his life.


An interest in ham radio led Larry to his career with the Department of Transport, starting out in Hudson, Ontario.  Several moves later, he met his sweetheart Blanche Deschenes in Red Lake, Ont, and they were married in her hometown, Winnipeg, in 1937.  Their life together, with their two daughters Deanna and Lorraine, took them all over Canada.  Their three wartime years in Whitehorse, Yukon were a special highlight – lifelong friends were made in this unique northern setting.


Larry’s career duties over the years included inventing and making improvement to radio equipment, sending and receiving Morse code, training, testing and licensing recruits, supervising, administrating and travelling to remote stations.  He progressed by hard work and his excellent knowledge and skills in all communication matters, to his position as Regional Superintendent of Radio Regulations in Edmonton.


Larry and Blanche retired to Kaleden, BC, in 1971, where Larry built their house on the banks of Skaha Lake.  Many family summers at the beach, as well as fishing trips, are happy memories for their children and grandchildren.  The Nelsons became winter “snowbirds”, travelling and golfing in the south.  Blanche sadly succumbed to cancer in 1979, leaving Larry extremely lonely.


Fortunately Larry found Grace Clark to share his life with, and enjoyed many good years with his extended family.  They travelled overseas as well as continuing the treks around North America that Larry loved to make with his various RV combinations.


Later years and various health issues saw Larry and Grace move into Penticton.  Larry sadly lost Grace in 2011.  He continued on to celebrate his 100th birthday with many friends and relatives last summer.


Larry’s love, creativeness, hard work, steadfastness and integrity are cherished by us.  We are so grateful to have had him in our lives.


Larry is survived by his daughters Deanna McNary and her husband Larry, and Lorraine Nelson and her partner Robert Clugston, grandchildren Vicki, Shawn, Linda, Adele and Bob and their families, and ten great grandchildren, and Grace’s daughters Jo Winding and Ann Locke and her husband Charlie and their families.


A memorial service will be held on Saturday, August 31, 2013 at 2 pm, at Parkview Funeral Chapel, 1258 Main Street, Penticton, BC, with Peter O’Flynn officiating.  Interment will be at Kaleden Cemetery.




When the Department of Communications (DOC) was formed in April 1969 the regional radio regs organization, which remained with DOT until 1971, had six regional offices. Each was headed up by a regional superintendent. The Edmonton office was headed by Larry Nelson who retired that year. Larry has passed away, age 100, in Penticton. I had the pleasure of meeting him there last summer.

Larry was an active contributor to our history and kept in touch with his friends via Skype until the end.


John Gilbert

September 2, 2013


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