2014 General Assembly in Victoria

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Ernie Pfannenschmidt

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Ernie Pfannenschmidt

Ernest Ludwig Pfannenschmidt

March 7, 1923 - November 17, 2003

A Celebration of Life service will be held on Sat. November 29th from 12:30 to 5:00 pm at the Canadian Forces Sailing Association, 1001 Maplebank Rd. (just off Admirals Road on your way up to View Royal, near Propane filling Center).  In lieu of flowers, please make donations to the Heart and Stroke Foundation, or S.A.L.T.S, Box 5014 STN B, Victoria, BC  V8R 6N3

Times Colonist obituary (966k pdf)

Ernie Pfannenschmidt, 1923-2003 - an obituary by Chris Gainor

The President's Message

It is with great regret that I inform you that Ernie Pfannenschmidt passed away on Monday, November 17, 2003, after a heart attack on the weekend.

Ernie was active in astronomy right to the end. He was scheduled to address our December meeting, and a month ago, he gave me a barlow lens that will be a door prize at the RASC banquet this weekend.

Ernie addressed our meetings several times, most recently in April on his 65 years of Mars observing (65 Years of Backyard Mars Observing). He also spoke at this summer's Island Star Party. Ernie was a regular contributor to Sky and Telescope magazine.

Ernie built instruments for more than 20 years at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory, and he was known for his outspoken and provocative opinions about astronomical instruments.

My home is near Ernie's and I would often run into him. He spent a lot of time in the last few months engaged in one of his great passions, observing Mars.

I have passed along our condolences to Ernie's family. When an event celebrating Ernie's life is scheduled, I will let you know.

Chris Gainor
President, Victoria Centre

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Ernie's Astronomy

5" f/15 Folded Refractor

Ernie's hand-drawn 1950 Mars map

"In Love with Mars"
Ernie on the cover of Der Spiegel as a result of public interest in the 1950 Mars Dust Storm

Condolences - messages

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Ernie Pfannenschmidt was an active member of the Catboat Association, and wrote several wonderful articles, which we printed in our Bulletin. Below is a short excerpt from a cruising story he wrote in 1993 that captured his enthusiasm and love for the sea, the sky and sailing.

"Velvety darkness has enveloped my microcosm, its zenith marked by my masthead light. My little catboat hovers suspended between the starry heavens above and their shimmering reflection in the placid waters below. It's as if the Creator has pushed the PAUSE button and momentarily suspended the inexorable flux of time. I have always loved the night; it is a time for reflection, a time to be at peace with one's self and the world, an opportunity to gaze upward and outward� as well as inward. It is a time to rejoice and be grateful for the unique gift of self-consciousness that we humans alone seem to possess."

Good night Ernie; I will remember and be grateful I knew you. My condolences to Ernie's family and friends.

Bob Luckraft
Catboat Association President

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Ernie's passing was a shock, I thought he would be going strong until at least 100, he had so much energy and enthusiasm. We had become friends beyond the club. I will miss his sense of humor, his love for astronomy and his knowledgeable advice.

Brian Robilliard

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From the HIA internal newsletter of 24 November 2003

With sadness we learned this week of the death on 17 November of Ernie Pfannenschmidt, who retired a number of years ago from HIA-DAO. Trained as a shipwright, and a self-described "tinkerer," Ernie worked on the Queen Elizabeth II Telescope project, on instrumentation for the Victoria telescopes, and on the 1980s project to characterize sites in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for astronomical use. He deeply loved astronomy, sailing and his family, which included numerous foster children. His most recent publication appeared in the November Sky & Telescope. Ernie was a raconteur of considerable skill, whose unmistakable zest for life stimulated everyone with whom he came in contact. Astronomy and the wider community have lost a special person, who will be missed by all who were fortunate to have known him. A celebration of his life will be held at the Canadian Forces Sailing Association, 1001 Maplebank, between 12:30-5:00 p.m. on 29 November.

Jim Hesser

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On behalf of the the membership of the Vancouver Centre, I would like to pass on our condolences to the Victoria Centre for the loss of Ernie Pfannenschmidt. This is very sad news for all of us involved in amateur astronomy.

Ernie was an excellent and interesting speaker and his knowledge of optics was outstanding. His refractor designs are part of telescope-making history. His talk to us a few years ago was well attended and is still referred to; particularly his friendly digs at those of us who own SCTs. During the recent Mars opposition, several of us built apodizing filters from his instructions in the April Journal of the RASC..

Ernie may be gone, but he will certainly not be forgotten ... Bill Ronald

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It is with great regret that I inform you that Ernie Pfannenschmidt passed away on Monday after a heart attack on the weekend.

I can't tell you how very sorry I am to hear that. I worked closely with Ernie to bring a number of his article to publication here at the magazine and visited with him in Victoria a number of times. I regarded him as much more than an author -- he was a kind and patient mentor and a friend too...

Gary Seronik
Associate Editor

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Please pass on my condolences to Ernie�s surviving family. I was shocked to hear of his passing and know the astronomical world will be a sadder place for his passing but is equally a smarter place for his presence.

I remember many an evening in the kitchen trailer atop Mt. Kobau with Ernie, Frank Younger and Craig McCaw waiting for the skies to clear.

Ernie would tell tails of his life prior to joining the DAO. Never did I laugh so much as when he and Frank would get on �a roll�, giving a meaning to � a Frank and Ernest� conversation.

Recently I was pleased to see Ernie�s by-line in a recent Sky and Telescope article and was immediately drawn back to those days (and evenings) and was once again in awe of his technical prowess with the telescope concept he had written of.

Thanks, Ernie for being a part of my existence.

David Dodge
H.R. MacMillan Space Centre
Vancouver, BC

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This is so Sad! I just don't know what to say. He will be sorely missed by all that knew him.

Rich Willis

What a shocker! It shows how fragile the life is. Ernie was so eager to share his expertise with whoever will listen. Just a couple of weeks ago he took the Centre's Takahashi to collimate.

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One of the greatest gifts to share is the ease of conversation. Ernie had that gift. My favourite times with Ernie were sitting with a cup of tea, at my kitchen table or his, discussing his work, telescopes, astronomy past and future, world affairs, family relations and everything in between. He gave advice, adapting simple and practical solutions to complicated equipment and situations. He loved to share his expertise and experience. Those of us fortunate enough to have worked and played with Ernie learned much and laughed along with him. He will be very sadly missed by his colleagues and friends � both of which I was privileged to be. My sincere condolences to his family.

Clear & Dark Skies. Sid Sidhu

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My condolences to Ernie's family and the members of Victoria Centre. Ernie will be greatly missed within the astronomical community. I will let those who knew him at work know the sad news.

Craig Breckenridge

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My condolences to all the Victoria Centre, Ernie gave some very good talks here in Vancouver and will be missed.

Doug Montgomery

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I'm glad I visited with Ernie after his Mars talk a few months ago.  He gave me the "grand tour" of his astronomy stuff. I digitized his materials used in the talk 65 Years of Backyard Mars Observing so we will have a permanent online record of his Mars observations.

His enthusiasm brought a smile to my face...as we talked, I thought ahead thirty years and speculated how my own enthusiasm for astronomy might rank against his.

Joe Carr

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Very nice to have those mementos of a great talk by Ernie. Thank you Joe.

Jim Hesser

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I just heard about Ernie. My condolences to his family and friends. I saw him about 2 years ago when he gave a talk at the Vancouver centre, RASC. His talk inspired me to build an apodizing mask for planetary observing. I have been working on these devices ever since, and it has grown into further research in optics. Thanks Ernie.

Eric Fuller

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...just talked to Judit Pfannenschmidt today at lunch and offered my condolences...she informed me that Ernie's obituary is in today's Times Colonist paper (Nov 21/03), and that a service to be named Celebration of Life will be held on Sat. November 29th from 12:30 to 5:00 pm at the Canadian Forces Sailing Association, 1001 Maplebank Rd. (just off Admirals Road on your way up to View Royal, near Propane filling Center).

Many Thanks, a tearful Bruno Quenneville

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Ernie's enthusiasm for astronomy made him a very welcome speaker whenever he attended Victoria Centre meetings. He had a splendid ability to connect with people and always took time to talk with everyone around him. Ernie's passing is sad but his family can take comfort from the warm feelings he left behind. He'll be missed by all of us.

Bill Almond

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I only met Ernie once, when he came to Kobau to give a talk on what he did up on 'the hill' and the instrumentation he designed, maintained and ran. His talk started with his life experiences just prior to World War II and ended with his observing and instrumentation in Victoria. What an engaging and intelligent man! Many more interesting stories and a wealth of information forever gone. I am so sorry to hear of his passing.

Rick Keppler

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Although I only met [Ernie] through the meeting over the last couple of years I found him a true scientist from the "golden age of science" who maintained his love of science mixed with his great sense of humor. He will be greatly missed.

Bill Hill

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Condolences - signatures

bulletFrank Ogonoski
bulletKen Pleasance
bulletErika Pleasance
bulletJohn Love
bulletChuck Filtness
bulletBrenda Stuart
bulletSandy Barta
bulletCassie Holcomb
bulletDave Bennett
bulletScott Mair
bulletGuy Walton
bulletSteven Pacholuk
bulletBill Weir
bulletJim & Betty Hesser
bulletEd Maxfield
bulletMary-Clare Carden
bulletNeil Banera
bulletBrian & Joanne Robilliard
bulletRoger Williams


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Last updated: December 12, 2013

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