AAAP Ceremonies

Beginnings | First Telescope | Founding of the AAAP | Valley View Observatory | Buhl Planetarium | Albert Einstein | The "Eyes of God" | AAAP Ceremonies | Historic Marker and Asteroid Scanlon | Leo's Favorite Things | Recollections | Leo's Unpublished Letter to Posterity

Leo and mayor
The late Pittsburgh Mayor Richard Cailiguiri presents Leo with an official City Proclamation honoring the AAAP's 50th anniversary and "Astronomy Week" in Pittsburgh in the summer of 1979
(photo by Allegheny County Commissioners' Office, courtesy of Tom Reiland)

Anniversaries, Dedications and Ribbon Cuttings

A lthough Leo's participation in routine club business matters declined through the 1970's, '80's and early '90s, he was called upon as the patriarch of the AAAP to speak at various banquets and inaugurate the various phases of the club's new observatory, the Nicholas E. Wagman Observatory in Deer Lakes Park. He was Keynote Speaker at the club's 50th and 60th Anniversary dinners and joined in the ground breaking for the Wagman Observatory (with Maria-Louise Wagman, Dr. Wagman's widow); he also cut the ribbon marking completion of Phase I in June, 1987.

During the August, 1985 ground breaking he stated, in typical Scanlon style, "I'm most happy to be able to participate in this brief ceremony that honors Dr. Wagman by the building of this observatory. It's most appropriate that his wife should be the one to turn over the soil, because in back of every great man is a greater woman." After the first phase of the observatory was complete, the room containing the original 12-1/2" reflector was named for Leo. In appreciation, he donated three eyepieces for its use.

When the Brashear 11" Refractor became operational in October, 1994, Leo accepted the honor of observing "First Light" through the telescope (actually, the first light in 85 years). The intended object of First Light was the star Vega, but clouds forced a temporary move to a nearby tower marker light. With a break in the clouds, Leo was able to observe the brilliant blue star after all. In April, 1995, Leo joined several other senior AAAP members in the ribbon cutting for the new Brashear wing of the Wagman Observatory. As usual, he was the "Center of the Universe" as far as the attending crowd was concerned, and received a standing ovation when he was introduced.

Also that year, Leo made his last presentation at an AAAP business meeting (held at Allegheny Observatory), a mostly lighthearted review of some of his boundless activities in the name of astronomy. At the end of his talk, he again received a standing ovation from the overflow audience and responded with a firm, clenched-fist champion's salute.

By July of 1997, Leo's somewhat declining physical health required that he transfer from his Van Buren Street home, where he had lived for over 65 years, to a personal care home in Gibsonia, Pennsylvania, north of Pittsburgh. Prior to that time, he had donated a major portion of his various personal collections (including books, charts, letters, paintings, slides, etc.) to his family and visiting AAAP members. But not all. Leo's room at the Fosnight Personal Care Home was a miniature version of his Van Buren Street home with an impressive collection of books, articles, gemstones and his beloved photo of the meeting with Einstein. And hanging in his window was a beautiful stained-glass image of Halley's Comet. Leo also became something of a celebrity at Fosnight, and on several occasions gave talks to his residence companions on the high points of his life.
Leo at Wagman groundbreaking Leo at Wagman Dedication
Leo speaks at the groundbreaking ceremonies for the Wagman Observatory
(photo by Joyce Osborne-Fischer)
Leo speaks at the Dedication of the Wagman Observatory in June, 1987. Dr. Wagman's widow, Maria-Louise Wagman (right), is among honored guests
(photo by Joyce Osborne-Fischer)
Leo Brashear first light Leo at the Wagman Phase II Dedication
Leo observes "First Light" through the restored Brashear 11-Inch Refractor at Wagman Observatory
(photo David L. Smith)
As he had done for the Wagman Observatory Phase I Dedication, Leo cuts the ribbon for Phase II
(photo David L. Smith)

Temporary Retirement for Valley View Dome

Leo and springfield Found
Leo gets re-acquainted with his 10" Springfield Telescope, following its recovery from Bethany College
(photo David Smith)
With Leo's departure from Van Buren Street, his family asked the AAAP about the disposition of Valley View Observatory. If not dismantled and removed, it would have to be destroyed prior to the sale of the house. The club chose to salvage the dome, storing it in hopes of resurrecting the complete Valley View Observatory at the Wagman Observatory site, including the original 10" Springfield Telescope.

The dismantling of Valley View became something of a media event. Leo was brought down from the Fosnight Home to watch the operation and dole out autographs while scores of people gathered around him, including several newspaper reporters and photographers. As he observed the careful lowering of the dome from his old workshop, Leo was asked how he felt. "A little bit sorry, you know. Now it has served its term, and like everything else, it has to be changed. It was a pleasure to build it. But we all go eventually." When offered a piece of the observatory as a souvenir, Leo declined: "I don't need one. I've got the memories." His now-historic dome was transferred to temporary storage at the home of AAAP member John Holtz in Butler County on September 6, 1997.

Several months later, Leo visited the photography studio of AAAP member Dave Smith for his first face-to-face look at the Springfield in perhaps 60 years. Of course, he recalled every detail of its design and pointed out features that otherwise might have gone undetected. After inquiry by Dave, the telescope had been recently rediscovered in a laboratory storage room at Bethany College, the same institution that had purchased the instrument prior to World War II.


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