Steve and Me
I first heard of Steve and SWS Security about 15 years ago when I was working on my first book, ‘Don’t Bug Me’. I called but at first, he didn’t want to talk to me, having had some bad experiences with writers. But, being persistent, we soon came to an agreement about what I would or would not publish. I wanted to include info on as much surveillance and countermeasures gear as I could. He was a gold mine of information!
I soon learned that his bark really was worse than his bite. At least a little bit. Some of us referred to Steve as that ‘cantankerous old fart’ to which he usually replied, “My reputation spreads far and wide”. But inside, he was one of the sweetest people I have ever known. His sensitivity can be seen in the photos on his site- love of animals, especially geese, and also his inmicable sense of humor.
We soon became good friends, both having ham licenses, an interest in spy stuff and tube type ham gear, built by hand on aluminum chassis, remembering things like theremins, whistler receivers and Carl and Jerry in the old Popular Electronics magazine.
Steve had an 800 number with which incoming calls were free on Fridays and once a week we would spend hours rapping about many things. This was before he had email, and he also sent tons of info by fax. I finally got him to get an Inet account (which at first he rejected as a ‘kids toy’) and later I started building www.swssec.com, my very first web site.
Over the years I came to realize just how smart, brilliant actually, Steve was. Almost anything about electronics, radios, he always had the answers. And many times I depended on him while researching my books. Eventually I thought he should be co-author of the last book from Paladin as well as the new one on scanners, short-wave listening and ham radio. I couldn’t have completed the radio book without him.
I remember, a few years ago, he flew out here and I took him around, seeing the sights. He loved the street bands at Fisherman’s Wharf, and was like a kid in a candy store at the Hard Rock Café on Van Ness. He got a big kick out of riding the cable cars.
Steve, Karensa and I liked sending things to each other and often did so. Little gifts that brightened each other’s day. Wind chimes and bags of pistachio nuts and foreign currency for his collection…
Steve’s health was failing the last few years and many days he was in constant pain, but he still kept going, getting things done, and always seemed to have time to help someone with questions and problems. There are a great many testimonials on his site.
In the last two years or so, as well as his health, he was fighting against several people who had, for little or no reason, decided to make his life miserable. A lawsuit without merit was filed along with complaints and incomplete documents from public domain sources which not only cost him many thousands of dollars but- for a while, caused him to lose his standing amateur radio emergency services and OES, an organization in Maryland that he all but built himself.
But he never gave up, he fought back and ultimately, he was able to defeat those who attacked him.
He was also able to renew his Maryland license for setting up fireworks displays; a Certified Pyrotechnician)
(Some pictures are here: http://www.swssec.com/sws_at_work_and_play_part_one.html
Not many people have lived lives as full as did Steve. He was consultant for the movie Enemy of the State, working personally with Gene Hackman, and even had a bit part written in.
As you can see from his web site, he traveled all over the world working on various projects including drug interdictions. India, Korea, Mexico, and Colombia which he loved very much.
I like to think that his name being on two books we wrote together gives him a kind of immortality, as have his many good deeds over the years, the decades.
I am not a religious person, but on hearing of his death, I hoped that he is in a better place.
And wherever that is, that maybe there will be radios and pistachios and Carl and Jerry.
Good bye, my friend, I will always miss you.
M. L. Shannon
We were not aware. Please express our sympathy to Karensa.
Steve Clark, SWS affiliate in Canada
Thank you for your mail. I really didn't know that Steve had died. I am so sorry, I felt very upset when I read your mail. Because, we have been friends for many years and lot of respect and trust, I really honour to being his friend and doing business with him.
You know, when he send an e mail, he used to start with, "Once upon a midnight dreary, Sami pondered, weak and weary".
Please give my regards and condolence wishes to his wife Karensa.
With kind regards,
I was very saddened to hear that Steve passed away. He was the absolute king of quality Minox cameras. He and his very informative website will > be sorely missed.
While Steve had reminded me numerous times that his passing was not long off, I could never accept it, assuming Steve was leaning on his pessimistic side. This is an immensely painful fact to accept, as like I had mentioned - my biggest fear was that I missed my chance to meet my mentor and hero.
Of course you are welcome to use my words in tribute to Steve, and while I never conversed with Karensa, I felt as if I knew her through conversations with Steve, as he talked about her a great deal, so please pass along my thoughts and prayers to Karensa as well.
Well, as my eyes well up I need to finish this msg and contemplate the opportunity I missed to meet one of the most brilliant, interesting people I have ever had the pleasure of conversing with.
Thanks so much for the information, and my thoughts with you as well for your loss of what must've been a very close friend.
With sympathy and regret,
I am sorry to have learned through the grapevine of Steve's passing
I only spoke to him twice.... but I liked him and of the professionals I know.. no one can say a bad word about him. You and his spirit have my prayers
Ryugen Fisher, Sr. Consultant
I recently received notice from Tim Johnson of Steve’s passing. I just wanted to pass on my condolences. Although I had only know (electronically) Steve for a couple of years he was a inspiration and a wonderful teacher. I will treasure the signed copy of his book with Shannon he sent me as a gift. I often think of your note you sent with some equipment telling of your childhood experiences in Canada, my thoughts and prayers are with you during this difficult time.
Thinking of you,
Thank you for your reply. Please express my sincere condolences to Karensa for her loss. Steve was a very decent person and will be missed by many.
I am very saddened to hear that Steve passed away. I will check his site as you suggested.
I understand. I saw one of your postings to thePIgroup about his passing. Please express my condolences to the family. I also valued the help Steve gave me via email. I now wish I had taken his offer up this summer to help with fireworks. I never did get to meet him which I regret. However I counted him as a friend.
Please forward info to me so that I can post it the Professional Investigators and Security Association (PISA). Most PISA folks are in Virginia and I know that a lot of them know Steve.
Thank you for helping to keep things together there. I can only imagine how hard this may be on you as well.
I was shocked and saddened to learn about Steve's departure. I only had a couple of long discussions over the phone with him, but knew him and his work through the PWF forum.
He volunteered his time to moderate the forum and support many people whom he did not know. A nice, kind soul....
I just learned that while he was doing that he was not in the best of health and must have had a very strong spirit to find time and volunteer to help many of us at the PWF.
My work is in computers and wireless communications, but my hobby and personal life are very influenced by spiritual matters. I do not believe we die, there are many reasons for this statement and I would not want to start discussing them unless you would be interested to hear more about it.
I will keep remembering Steve as he would still be with us (because I believe he is...)
Very sorry to hear about Steve's death, We really make good business in the past and appreciate him a lot. Send our deepest sympathy to Karensa. In other hand we want to know if you have new products, new web page etc. Please send us your general info.
Thank you and best regards.
Ing. Balbino Gallego Hernandez
Steve Uhrig, WA3SWS, silent key
This image from the 1998 movie "Enemy of the State" shows actor Gene Hackman on the left, with Steve Uhrig, a technical adviser to the film's production company, seated behind the counter on the movie set of an electronics store.
"Hackman (with actor Will Smith behind him) walks into the electronics store of which Steve's character is the proprietor and exchanges a few words with Steve about the hardware he needs. Steve said he spent all day in makeup and rehearsals, and all they used was his profile and 15 seconds of film with him in it!" said Randy Hargenrader, K4QO, an RCA member and a good friend of Steve's who sent word this month that Steve had passed away.
"Gene Hackman actually modeled his character after Steve—including the diabetes and the gruff mannerisms. Steve was the first to tell you that 'his cantankerous reputation spreads far and wide'," Randy said. "His friends knew his bark was worse than his bite."
M.L. Shannon, KG6DQM, the webmaster for Steve's website, SWS Security, said that Steve died "a few weeks ago."
Steve joined RCA in 1994 and became a Fellow in 2002. Steve sent me a message in 2005 to say that he no longer was a member. Randy said that diabetes had limited Steve's ability to travel and even the amount of energy he could bring to daily activities, and perhaps that was a factor in Steve's letting his membership lapse.
For most of the information about Steve, I would like to refer you to his website, which M.L. said that he intends to maintain indefinitely. M.L. said he would be posting letters of condolence from Steve's friends. The site has 127 screens that collectively tell some of the story of Steve's work in surveillance.
Here are some comments from Randy:
"Steve led an interesting life as a 'spook' for the military and later as a civilian he operated his own firm, SWS Security. A ham since his teenager days, he loved 'all things radio' and making Fellow was a high point in his life. At the time of his induction, he was not traveling due to his diabetes keeping him home. Before his illness got the better of him, he made friends with Tom Clancy while he oversaw the security system installation at his estate. The project took many months and Steve and Tom found a common interest in Minox cameras and became quick friends."
Steve Uhrig, WA3SWS, with author Tom Clancy; and Steve taking his own picture in a mirror with one of his Minox cameras.
"Steve had many interesting 'jobs' as a surveillance expert," Randy said. "Unfortunately many of his better stories are not for publication due to the sensitivity of them, and it could expose some ongoing operations."
Steve and M.L. shared writing credit for the book Electronic Surveillance and Wireless Network Hacking, and M.L. said that another book on which the two collaborated is set for publication in February.
At the Northeast Maryland Amateur Radio Club's "Show and Tell" conducted two years ago in the McFaul Activities Center in Bel Air, Maryland, Steve and his wife Karensa displayed various tracking and sweeping electronics. This photo was taken by David Stansbury, KB3KAI.
I came across information about Steve a number of times through the years while researching various subjects. I had some email communication with him about year ago and said whenever he could tell some stories about his security-related adventures for publication, I would provide an attentive ear. Some of those stories are on his website; some endure with his friends, and the rest he took with him, which may be how it should be.
Steve's motto was, "In God we trust. All others we monitor." I like that.
From Don Bishop, Radio Club of America
I wanted to send my condolences on the passing of Steve Uhrig. I perform TSCM services and have been a small customer of SWS for some years now. My business dealings with Steve were very professional and I always appreciated the time he gave me for any questions I might have.
Again, please pass on my condolences to the family.
Steve provided many many Emails to me regarding the TSCM field and steered me away from non professional people. He always had an answer when you asked and I actually met him in Boston for dinner when he was meeting Jim Atkinson a few years back. As I have been off the list for the past 3 years, I've only now found out the true extent of a friendship gone bad between them, (something that wasn't evident in their interactions in Boston).
Thank you for your return Email.
Karensa and Family
I am Roger Holloway and have spoke to Steve a couple of times in the past. I do not know him that well at all. I do want to let you know I am sorry for your loss and you are in my prayers.