(cba:news) Captain Bob Fried (fwd)

Joe Patterson jop at astro.columbia.edu
Tue Nov 18 05:42:45 EST 2003

Here are some memories of Bob from Orv, who had a longer acquaintance than
most of us were privileged to have.  The blind-pilot incident is
quintessential Bob!

I understand that a memorial service will be held at the Lowell
Observatory visitor center on November 25 (3 p.m.)

Terry Oswalt also writes to say that he'll hold space for an
obituary/article in IAPPP.  I'll take a crack at that one.  I think
Bob Fried is very well known to readers of that journal.


---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Mon, 17 Nov 2003 17:54:58 -0600
From: Orville Brettman <rivendell.astro at worldnet.att.net>
To: Joe Patterson <jop at astro.columbia.edu>
Subject: Re: (cba:news) Captain Bob Fried

   It was the winter of 1974, January the 12th to be exact, and my
observing log of almost 40 years recounts how it was that I came to be
taking Schmidt camera photos of comet 1973f (Kohoutek) at the Modine
Benstead Observatory west of Racine Wisconsin . Bob Fried was the honcho
of a project sponsored by the Astronomical League to photograph the
comet through various wratten filter combinations in order to attempt to
detect variations in the light output as caused by cyanogens. I remember
being impressed with his very concise way of organization and his
uncompromising dedication to fine detail.

   As I recall the project brought no great scientific breakthroughs to
the world and we didn't prove the building blocks of life existed on that
particular comet, but Bob and the team gave it their best shot. I did
however become fast friends with a really wonderful airline captain.

   Bob became increasing active in the affairs of the Astronomical League,
and was soon elected its President, while I represented my region of the
United States on the council of the League, and supported Bob's efforts
to turn the League into something more closely resembling a scientific
society rather than the 'meet, eat, and greet' group which many at the
time thought it had become.

   Bob's efforts were thwarted through the politics for which the League
remains well known to this day, and he redirected his efforts into
photoelectric photometry using a photometer of his own design named
'Gort 1'. It was a 1P21 device similar in construction to many others of
its day save that Bob made each and every part himself with a great deal
of advice from Ed Mannery as I recall.

   As the 70's drew to a close, Bob and I and others doing photometry at
the time found ourselves drawn together by Doug Hall of Vanderbilt into
a lose knit group of observers forming what latter evolved into the
IAPPP. Bob was a frequent speaker at the early meetings of the IAPPP and
co-author on many of the papers produced by this very prolific group.

   All during this time Bob was working his way up the food chain at Delta
Airlines, and one very outstanding story comes to mind as I write this
concerning his many adventures with the airlines. It seems that there
was a side to our friend Bob which was not often seen, and this involved
his absolutely keen sense of humor. One day while passengers were
boarding on an aircraft which Bob was piloting he took it upon himself
to enter by the rear door of the plane after it was about one half full
wearing his uniform of course and his pilot cap set at a jaunty angle
and a pair of very dark sun glasses and using a walking stick of the
type carried by those with very impaired vision and tapped his way to
the front of the plane. As I recall he told me they put him on the beach
for three days for that little lighthearted excursion. When he first
told me the story I laughed so hard I cried, but later heard the same
story from another pilot friend from Delta who maintained that Bob
gained international fame amongst the pilots of Delta for that stunt.

   It was in October of 1981 that my collaboration with Bob culminated
with the co discovery of the variability of the quadruple system HR 5 (ADS
61). He graciously made his observatory available for confirmation
observations, and Bill DuVall and I became his house guest for four
memorable nights. While his guest he introduced us to several of his
cohorts at Lowell and of course they offered a tour and so a very fine
and productive time was had by all.

   The years slipped by, and my memories of Bob's homes in Boulder and
Flagstaff which I had visited dimmed. I saw less and less of him as I
still attended the Astronomical League meetings which Bob did not. Then
in the deep of winter January 2002 I called my old friend Bob to let him
know I'd be coming through Flagstaff on my way to Winer Observatory in
Sonoita Arizona for a robotic telescope installation. It was as if no
time had passed, and he insisted my traveling companion and I spend the
day with him and have lunch and a tour of the fourth incarnation of his
Braeside observatory.

   What a treat it was indeed to see Bob again. First off he had lost some
weight and I learned of his heart problems and how he had beaten them,
but the observatory was transformed and only the control desk and the
telescope tube itself seemed familiar after the many years since the
early 80's. Clearly Bob had worked tirelessly as was his nature for all
these many years. For all the science that surrounded the endeavor, I
must say that the Star Trek sound clips that accompanied computerized
telescope commands just about knocked me out. Clearly his sense of humor
was undiminished by the years. We spoke much that day of flying as I
have been private pilot for 20 years and had the utmost respect for
Bob's unselfish use of his airplane for the benefit of those less
fortunate. In fact Bob's biggest complaint about his heart problems was
that it not so much pained him as it kept him from flying for a time.

   I'm going to miss him as I'm sure we all will, but I have 30 years of
very warm memories of a genuinely wonderful human being and fine and
able astronomer as well as an ace pilot, and I count myself lucky for
each and every one of them.

I've enclosed a photo taken of Bob on my last visit to Braeside.

Orville H. Brettman
Past President, Astronomical League
CBA - Huntley Illinois, USA

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