Don Fortner: Persevere and victory will come

Published on Tuesday, July 30, 2013

By Don Fortner

Citizen Journalist

Over my 68 years walking this good earth I have had good experiences and bad ones as well. I have made a few, actually many bad choices. Through it all I seemed to recover and get back on track. I will spare you the details but some still burn in my heart and soul. Some were things did while others were things I should have but failed to do so. At the times we don't realize how our actions can affect others.

I have really been blessed to recover from some of my mistakes and shortcomings. I have met many people along the way. Some impressed me at the time and still do today. I lack riches, position and prestige but am truly happy. If I didn't have Emily I would have given away all that I have accumulated during my trek through all these years. I place little value on physical things. Growing up poor you would think I would be a stingy old man. Not so. Lessons learned in the past caused me to totally change my outlook on life. First of all it became miraculously aware that "things" wouldn’t make or keep one happy.

As a teenager, 14 years of age I learned that life on this earth is uncertain. It is a fragile tightrope that we all walk not being able to know what awaits us around the next corner. Things in your life can be rolling along just fine. Everything seems perfect and you've finally made it. Then something comes along out of nowhere that causes your train to jump the track. These things happen when your star seems to be rising. The results can sometimes affect your life forever. Without support from others we would be defeated.

Two people that I came to know became my inspiration. One was Kinard Satterfield, a young high school student in Easley who was embarking on a life of dreams and things he wanted to do in this world. 

At the time I was a young kid myself in the process of preparing for my amateur radio license. As a newbie to electronics I was having a difficult time with formulas and math. I got so frustrated on several occasions until I read in the paper about a terrible trampoline accident that left Kinard Satterfield paralyzed permanently. At such a young age all his dreams and efforts came to a halt. His life would be changed forever.

Little did I know that our paths would cross within a year after his accident. I came home one day from L.P. Hollis Junior High, as I was living in Greenville, turned on my receiver and heard a new station operating Morse code. A few minutes later I gave him a call with my trusty, old J-38 army surplus telegraph key. He answered my call.

I had the FCC licensed call letters KN4SAO while he had been issued KN4VVT. The letter "N" in our call indicate we both were new "ham operators. I learned his name, location and that he was disabled from the trampoline accident but had succeeded in mastering the International Morse Code and operated his telegraph key with a paddle in his mouth and lying flat on his back. He tapped out the code this way for every two-way contact that he made. That in itself was an amazing feat.

Here I was whining about the difficulty in passing the requirements to obtain my license with all my abilities and here was someone that had worked harder than I had ever done to get his license. He had learned how to deal with his disability and radio had opened up the whole world to him. Needless to say I was impressed by this young man's determination to be normal. I realized that it took something extra to achieve what he did and I have never forgotten what he taught me by not giving up just because one lacks the abilities others take for granted. 

What made me write about him today is I saw where he had passed away a few years ago. I had lost contact with him over the last 50 years but never forgot what he taught me: never give up because you lack something others possess. Just always work hard to reach your goal.

You may flounder along the way but if you persevere victory will come.



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