In December 2022, the SJAA lost a long-time member, volunteer and friend, Paul Mancuso. Paul started his SJAA journey way back in the 1970s. He was very involved with the club, over the years serving as board member and in various officer roles. He kept his involvement going over the last 20 years as a stalwart volunteer at the School Star Parties as well as maintaining a regular presence at the In Town Star Parties at Houge Park.
Paul’s ashes have been interred at Cedar Lawn Cemetery, in the Silayan Garden, Mausoleum II. SJAA members attended the internment service and were a comfort to his wife and daughter. His family invites all SJAA members and friends to visit there and pay respects at any time. They are located at 48800 Warm Springs Blvd, Fremont.
The following are remembrances of Paul from SJAA members.
The school star party program was an important outreach. Among the group of volunteer astronomers, some showed up sporadically, others were regulars. Paul Mancuso was one of the regulars. There were a few school star parties where just three astronomers showed up. Paul was one of those stalwarts. As proof of that, in 2016, Paul was awarded the SJAA’s highest honor, the Gregory Award.
The last school star party of the 2017-2018 season was April 24, 2018, and of course, Paul was there. It was at Thomas Russell Middle in Milpitas, just a few block from Paul’s house as it turned out. We were almost clouded out, the sky was thin overcast. The Moon barely shown through, only a few of the brightest stars were visible some of the time. Still the kids were interested despite not being able to see much. As usual we all made the best of it, answering questions and talking about astronomy. In hindsight now, it seems that weather was a portent.
This was the last school star party of the season and possibly the last of the school star party program altogether since Jim Van Nuland was retiring as our coordinator after some 30 years. After the kids were gone and we were all packed up, we paused for a moment looking at each other. The realization started setting in that this might be the end of the school star party program. We shook hands and talked about what a really great run it had been. After a few minutes of some reflection on a very worthy program well done, we said good-bye and went home. Of course the public star parties would continue at least, maybe the school star parties too if we get a new coordinator. So we never thought that was really “good-bye.”
Not surprisingly the 2018-2019 season wasn’t much, we presented at only a few schools, and then the pandemic hit. It turns out we really were saying good-bye after all. At least we got to do that. Many don’t get that chance. I’m sure all the many kids who got to look through Paul’s scope will remember the good impression he made on them.
I used to run into Paul at Houge Park often, where he would set up at the north end of the sidewalk (Telescope Row). For years, I only knew him by voice, and every time, he would seem to have a different scope set up from the last time. Paul was great with the public as he shared views at his eyepiece, and he was also adept with the kids at the schools. That’s not to mention that Paul was an all -around good guy with a great sense of humor. He’ll be missed.