The loss of the Mars Polar Lander
on December 3, 1999 was difficult for all of us
interested in space science and exploration. Many
of us experienced a grief not unlike what we feel
when we lose a close friend or loved one.
For those of us in the OCA the
grief of losing a good and close friend that same
week was all too real. Long time OCA member, member
of the board of trustees, and Beginner's Class instructor
Don French passed away on November 29.
There is a memorial page and guest
book where members tell of their memories of Don
on the OCA web site at www.ocastronomers.org. Don
was always enthusiastic about astronomy. He demonstrated
that in countless hours sharing astronomy through
our beginner's class, our Explore the Stars program,
and our regular outreach programs. We will miss
Don very much.
But the losses did not stop there.
Long time OCA member and past officer in several
capacities, Wayne Johnson (Mr. Galaxy) and his wife
Arlene also had a significant loss this past month.
The rest of this president's letter contains excerpts
from two messages Wayne sent to OCA.
This past Wednesday night, Dec
8/9, our house with everything in it, burned down
to the ground. We got okay with our 3 cats, but
anything astronomical, anything that had memories
associated with it, is now ashes. Arlene and I watched
it burn down for almost six hours in freezing cold
weather. I tried to put out the fire with a hose
when we first detected it, but by then it was probably
too late. It looks like the problem may have been
with a faulty fireplace, since we started smelling
burning plastic about 15 minutes after I started
a fire in the fireplace, but we won't know for sure
until the fire inspector gets done with his investigation.
I wanted to get rid of some stuff when we moved
out here, but not quite so thoroughly. There's nothing
like a fiery entrance into a new location! Arlene
says that we lived in our new home for 2 months
and 6 days. I had just finished making book and
storage shelves and we were in the middle of organizing
[Wayne sent this message after a number of OCA members
expressed our concern and asked if there was anything
we could do.]
I must thank everyone for being
so concerned. Arlene and I (and the tres gatos)
are doing fine though probably suffering more from
cabin fever than anything else right now. I think
we've finally admitted to ourselves that the fire
really did happen as evidenced by several visits
to a chimney surrounded by a pile of rubble and
that we didn't do anything to cause it as evidenced
by our talking with many, many people who have had
it happen to them or knew of someone who experienced
something similar. Our insurance is supposed to
set us up in a rental house next week for about
a year until our home gets rebuilt. We are just
now starting to make very preliminary plans for
what we want to see in the new home since we have
been given the opportunity , but not necessarily
the funds! In reality we'll probably end up with
half the house we had, but we'll make do.
One favor to ask is if there was
anyone who attended our wedding at the 1994 RTMC
and still has pictures or possibly videos, we would
like copies of the event. We lost absolutely everything:
pictures, memorabilia, telescopes, eyepieces, charts,
computers, software, tools and 6,000 pounds of books
and historical papers.
One lesson is to keep duplicates
of important items in a separate location or keep
them in a good safe.
Clear skies, Wayne (aka Mr. Galaxy)
work ph: 520-663-9686
While OCA will be looking at ways
to help Wayne and Arlene recover some of their astronomical
life, individual members are encouraged to help
if they feel they can play a role in replacing some
of those losses that no amount of money or insurance
"The goodness of the night upon you"
Othello Act 1 Scene 2
Don French Memorial Page
and guest book