In Memoriam

A page dedicated to deceased members who have made a significant contribution to The Society or to the science of astronomy

Marie Cook 1930-2024

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Marie was born in South London. During the war she took an interest in ballet and was involved in ENSA, entertaining troops. She met her future husband, Jeremy Cook through a church club and they married in the mid 1950’s. When Jeremy got a job at Boscombe Down they moved to Winterslow, Wilshire,before moving to Frimley in the late 1960’s/early 1970’s, where they remained until the early noughties.

In addition to a love of nature, the family got into the hobby of Astronomy, particular after meeting Sir Patrick Moore, the TV astronomer. Marie was an excellent astronomer, specializing in the Moon and she even wrote a paper that was published in the Journal of the British Astronomical Association and would later become a member of the BAA council. Marie and Jeremy were also heavily involved in the local Reading Astronomical Society. Another hobby was genealogy and this was perhaps a main reason why Marie and Jeremy moved to Mundesley, Norfolk in the early noughties to continue work looking into the Cook family tree, as the ancestors of the Cook family came from Norfolk. Alas Jeremy passed away shortly after they moved to Mundesley and Marie soldiered on for about twenty years. She mastered modern IT and stayed in touch with the family using the computer and Alexa. Even the bird table was eventually wired up for her with cameras, so when she became unable to walk far, or venture out into the garden , she could watch her feathered friends.

Alas, in April 2022 she was taken into hospital and was in and out of care homes and hospital until her passing at the end of February. The care homes were really excellent and she quickly settled in and made great friends with the wonderful staff at these places until she suddenly passed away.

She will be greatly missed by her son, daughter-in-law, grandchildren, family and friends.

With permission – Tony Cook

Arthur (Taff) Jones 1933-2023

Taff was born in 1933 in the Welsh mining village of Gilfach, near Caerphilly, where his father was a miner in the local pit. He grew up there until he was 13,when his father was forced to leave the mines because of ill health. The family, parents, Taff and a younger brother, had connections to the village of Shoreham in Kent and moved to join them at this point.

Taff had passed his 11 plus in Wales and attended Bromley Grammar School for Boys until the age of 17, leaving with his School Certificate. Having always been interested in aviation, he applied to the RAF for training as a pilot. Like so many he was turned down but, offered entry as an Air Signaller (basically airbourne radar operator). This was accepted and he joined the RAF almost immediately, training at Swanton Morley initially on Lancasters left over from the WW2 and subsequently in Coastal Command Shackletons based in Cornwall, Scotland and Malta.

After completing 12 years in the RAF Taff joined civil aviation as a training Air Traffic Control Officer and started his course at their school at Hurn Airport. After graduation he was posted to the Southern Air Traffic Centre on the A4 and adjacent to Heathrow as a radar controller. After a few happy years on A Watch the service relocated to West Drayton and became the London Air Traffic Control Centre.

In the early 70’s Taff successfully applied for training in America after it was decided to computerise ATC in the UK. We had decided to buy an off the shelf system used throughout the USA. In true British fashion we did not purchase all elements and the rest had to be adapted and persuaded to function in a totally different system! Taff spent a year training in the USA, mainly in Atlantic City and Oklahoma, and later specialised in radar data processing.

Taff had always been interested in Astronomy and had constructed a telescope with a work colleague in the 80’s. We had travelled extensively in the States visiting sites of astronomical interest and to COAA in Portugal. Also, we traveled to Australia and Turkey to observe Total Solar Eclipses. Recently our main interest had been bird watching and we enjoyed many happy hours at the London Wetland Centre at Barnes with our friends from the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust.
Val Coney

Frank Gear 1932-2023

FRANK GEAR – IN MEMORIAM with thanks to John Wrigley

Profile photo of Frank Gear

Frank Cleon Gear, born 21 August 1932, a former member of Reading AS – and Vice-Chairman from 1980 to 1981 – died peacefully on 23 March 2023, aged 90, in a Northampton nursing home from cancer.

He was in many ways a larger-than-life character and a stereotypical “salesman”, that enabled him to know and bond with many influential people without hesitation or embarrassment, often accompanied with amusing anecdotes. Slightly tongue-in-cheek he would announce himself as “Lord Gear or the Duke of Purley” or something similar! He had many interests/hobbies other than astronomy, including photography, audio, vintage vehicles, shooting, archery, fish and horses. The last being his work in selling horseboxes. He lived in Purley, west of Reading and was involved with ReadingAS from the first meeting in October 1972 until he moved to Northampton in about 1984.

From 1975 to 1981, he was Custodian of the Bradfield College Observatory with its 20cm Cooke Refractor (no longer existing). This involved him advising on the care and use of the observatory/telescope as well as arranging observing sessions. He also helped ReadingAS with projection and audio equipment, particularly at public meetings. He was a member of the British Astronomical Association and a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society among other organizations.

When the Moon Rock samples were loaned – by special arrangement – to ReadingAS for display in September 1981, the Science & Engineering Research Council specified strict security arrangements. Frank kept the Moon Rock in his approved gun-safe. The guns – legally owned – were presumably moved to somewhere less secure!

At the ReadingAS 18 December 1986 meeting called “Nineteenth Century Astronomy”, Frank was one of the members amusingly involved in a skit that showed that many adamant beliefs of the time were not true. He played the part of an interviewer called “Robin Evening” (which is a pun based on a “no-holds-barred” infamous interviewer of the time called Robin Day.). It also provided a lesson for the present day.

When Frank became involved with the Astronomy Section of the Northampton Natural History Society, he and some of their members presented our 20 April 1991 meeting. In Northamptonshire he ran Adult Education Classes and lectured for the Workers Education Association. He has been a guest lecturer at University of Reading and Leicester University.

Frank set-up his own presentations with a Stardome Planetarium. This was just sufficiently portable that it could be transported and set-up at schools, universities, and other organisation’s functions. He wanted to be able to use the cartoon character Pluto in a presentation, so wondered if a good-sized image of the character could be sent to him. In typical Frank Gear style he telephoned the Disney Company – pre internet messaging – to ask permission. He got a reply in the middle of the night to say this was not possible unless he paid the substantial equivalent of royalties or a permissible use commission!

He used to regularly go to the USA and tried to keep in contact with many people, including Martin Ratcliffe, but was unable to do so in the past 3 or 4 years. Apart from mentioning his various activities and anecdotes, Frank did not discuss his private life so, although he leaves many friends and some family, these details are not well known.

Peter Hemphill 1920-2021

Among other achievements in a long life, Peter helped set up a local GP practice

Muriel Wrigley 1924-2021

Leigh Wymer 1959-2019

Andrew Elliott 1946-2010

Andrew lived in Lower Earley and was a member of the society for some years before his retirement to the banks of the Ribble in Lancashire.

I am very pleased to announce that an asteroid, discovered by Peter
Birtwhistle in 2005, has now been named in posthumous recognition of Andrew
Elliott’s contributions to amateur astronomy.
On Fri, 20/5/11, BAA electronic bulletins service <> wrote:(229255) Andrewelliott = 2005 AJ
Discovered 2005 Jan. 4 by P. Birtwhistle at Great Shefford.
Andrew John Elliott (1946-2010) was a British observer who pioneered the
use of low-light devices, precision timing and video methods in observing
short-lived phenomena. Assistant director for occultations of the British
Astronomical Association Lunar and Asteroids Sections, he lectured widely
in the UK and Europe.

Andrew sadly passed away on 2010 November 28.  The announcement nicely
coincides with the publication in the next few days of the June issue of the
Journal of the British Astronomical Association where you can read Andrew’s
obituary on pages 176-178.

Rest in peace dear friend.

Richard Miles
Director, Asteroids and Remote Planets Section

Asteroid (229255) Andrewelliott

A detailed obituary by Richard Miles is here