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Thursday, April 15 2021 @ 12:52 pm EDT
1954 - 1999
Let me add my voice to so many others who wish we could have just one more talk.
At the Friday September 17th meeting, I used the model I made of the 25 nearest stars to our sun to help explain stellar distances, and how we determine those distances by parallax.
The 18 to 20 attendees all seemed in keen interest. The discussion worked around to more distant objects, both in our galaxy and far beyond. By the end of the meeting we were contemplating the size, shape, and structure of the visible universe. This was just the kind of meeting and subject you especially enjoyed. I am so glad that you attended this meeting.
Whether you realized it or not, you have become one of the most stalwart and supportive members of the club, and of the science of astronomy as a whole. Your years of faithful effort and friendship were noted by not just we of the Executive Committee, but I feel, by all members past or present who could say they knew you.
We shared a lot of personal beliefs, you and I. Whenever we were together talking about whatever subject, I'd get the feeling that we shared a similar understanding of things. And like you, I remember the phrase coined by Carl Sagan, that "understanding is a form of ecstasy". How right he is!
I will miss you, David. We will all miss you. As time passes, our emptiness will subside; someone will try their hand at club Treasurer. While keeping our books may be within the reach of several members, who will do it so willingly? Who will sacrifice the time needed to attend committee and club meetings? Who will be as quick with a new way of looking or thinking about things that we want to see happen as a club? Who will engage me on the friendly banter on the subjects we understood?
I hope that you understand that every time we have a meeting like our last, every time we discuss the structure and size of the cosmos, every committee meeting, every treasurer's report, we will be thinking of you.
Goodbye my friend.
On September 26th, 1999 David Gibbs passed away suddenly at his home. David was a cherished club member and friend. As long as I can remember David has been our club Treasurer and on the Executive Committee. In the clubs infancy, David helped us form the club constitution including letting us meet at his house on several occasions. His input and wisdom helped us form the club we have today.
At our Executive Committee meetings David became our anchor, his advice and input kept us on a steady course especially at times when our dreams were bigger than our pocketbook. His devotion to education of astronomy was great especially when it came to educating children. David stood strong for the club even during the time several years ago when our future looked bleak.
David so loved astronomy and the intellectual questions that it presents. His hero in astronomy was Carl Sagan and upon hearing of his death, David was greatly saddened. I believe he told me once that the series Cosmos really fired up his passion for astronomy and challenged him to learn more.
Above all David was a friend to all that knew him. I thank God that the Friday before his death we got to talk. It was a special conversation since both of us had lost our Fathers this summer. At David's memorial service I finally realized how great a loss David was not only to us but to everyone that knew him. The church was filled to overflowing with friends who wanted to say their farewells. I know in my heart that this was just a small percent of the actual people that David's life touched.
My belief is that we will meet David again and would like to think of this not as a final farewell. When my time on this earth is over I believe that David and all my friends in astronomy will be aboard the Cosmic Starship and with Carl Sagan as our guide, we will tour the Universe and learn its mysteries.
Maj. Douglas C. Coleman
1953 - 1985
I met Doug Coleman the day we formed this club on January 15, 1985. He, as did I, volunteered as an officer in our core group of executive committee members. Doug was our first editor of the newsletter. We met again at Joe Roam's house a few weeks later for a committee meeting to continue work on our club constitution. That was just a friendly meeting, and it turned out to be the last time I saw him.
On June 6, 1985 I was entering a store west of Sallisaw when my eye caught the newspaper. One of two pictures on the front page was of Doug and another guy. I read the headlines and time slowed to a crawl. "...Guardsmen killed in crash" gave me my first clue as to Doug's occupation as a fighter pilot, and the other guy's picture was his weapons officer, Richard Lumpkin.
Major Douglas C. Coleman, 32, and Captain Richard Lumpkin, 31, were killed when their F-4 Phantom jet crashed into a valley between two mountains near Waldron the previous morning, June 5. They had been flying a routine low-level training mission when something went terribly wrong. One of the two other jets they were flying with reported that immediately prior to the crash, there had been no signs of trouble, and no distress signal was sent. Whatever went wrong caused the crash in the blink of an eye.
Not long after the news of the crash reached the other members of the committee, a suggestion was made to name our observatory for Doug. In a unanimous vote, we attached the name of Douglas C. Coleman to the observatory of the Arkansas Oklahoma Astronomical Society for all time. We dedicated the original observatory on June 7, 1987, two years and two days after his death.
Coleman Observatory saw thousands of people pass through it's walls between 1987 and 1993. Unfortunately, we lost access to the 29" telescope which had been the draw that brought in the big crowds of up to 500 people on public observing nights. Our club and the owners of the 29" parted ways, and in 1994 we moved the observatory to its present location about 8 miles NW of Van Buren, AR. Our numbers have been up and down in the ensueing years, but our original ideals have never waivered, to bring astronomy to the public and especially to area schools. This goal remains and will always remain as our primary concern. It is a goal we set about to achieve from those very first days, when Doug was still with us. We also feel that Doug is still here with us in spirit, enjoying our highs and suffering with us through our lows. That spirit that made Maj. Coleman an ace in his 188th Tactical Fighter Group is, and shall always be, the spirit that will live forever in Coleman Observatory.