I was thinking on that line too. I know others have been successful with certain distros of Linux right from the start, including wireless on the T43 series. I'll check around for other kernels. The T43p was released on 6/2006 and Intel has some info on the ipw2200 drivers and when they were included in the various kernels. So I'll try this out and hopefully I can report SOLVED.
Added on 2/18/2012:
The solution came in a roundabout way. We had the same problem with my wife's newly acquired Nook. After Googling their issues it was noted many users had to have their MAC address in their router for it to function as intended. Not knowing our router had a setting for this before, I manually typed in the Nook MAC address. Voila, 15 seconds later working. After that I did the same for this T43 laptop, booted up the PCLOS Live CD, wifi connected on auto via DHCP after entering WPA/PSK info, web pages displayed correctly.
So, thanks to all who were kind enough to offer their time and knowledge. Sorry this topic went so long and maybe others will get the answer they need also.