Dear Al Nagler:
You may recall, I met you in September 2019 at the New Jersey Astronomical Association (NJAA) Open House in High Bridge, New Jersey. There, I had you sign a Tele Vue baseball cap for me. That was a very special moment for me, and for the cap’s former owner, who would have been thrilled to meet you. You see, the cap has a particularly interesting history.
The cap belonged to my dear friend and astronomy mentor, Gene Ramsey, who had passed away just three years before. Gene loved astronomy, acquiring his first telescope as a young man. He continued the hobby through his years in the Air Force, where he served until 1962. Upon retiring in the 1990’s, Gene joined the Amateur Astronomers Association of Princeton (AAAP). It is there where my wife, Jennifer, and I meet Gene in 2012.
Gene loved sharing his passion for exploring the wonders of the cosmos. He was involved in the AAAP outreach program and introduced astronomy to scouting groups, schools and countless others. He was a Key Holder for the club and helped train dozens of new members, including Jennifer and me. Gene latched onto both of us because of Jennifer’s desire to learn astronomy, my handyman skills, and the fact that we lived close to the club’s primary observatory in Titusville, New Jersey. As I look back, I realize Gene was grooming his replacement as Observatory Chairperson.
I do not know when or how Gene acquired the Tele Vue baseball cap. Nor do I know when Gene “lost” the cap; I never saw him wear it. I only know where I found it on one day in January 2017.
The story goes Gene was very distraught for misplacing his cap while being a night sky ambassador at our club’s second observatory in northern New Jersey. Gene was a very organized and determined person; something he got from the military. According to fellow astronomer, Bill Murray (Gene’s ride that day), Gene spent quite some time searching for his treasured cap. Unbeknownst to everyone, the cap had become sandwiched between two stacked chairs. Those two chairs, for unfortunate reasons, were not separated again until our club returned use of the observatory to the host organization.
Now that the cap has been given renewed “First Light,” my wife and I have taken it upon ourselves to bring the cap along with us to every astronomy related event that we can. I am sure that is what Gene did when it was in his possession.
The cap has since observed the August 2017 total solar eclipse in Monmouth, Oregon and was dipped into the Pacific Ocean. It visited the Adler Planetarium in Chicago, Illinois and was dipped into nearby Lake Michigan. Jennifer and I both wore it while observing through the famed 40-inch refractor at the Yerkes observatory in Williams Bay, Wisconsin. And, it just viewed the November 11, 2019 Mercury Transit and took a trip to InfoAge Space Exploration Center in Wall Township, New Jersey.
Jennifer and I will continue to bring the now “signed by Al Nagler”, Tele Vue cap with us and wear it proudly in remembrance of our dear friend and astronomy mentor, Gene Ramsey (1939-2016).
Travel far among the stars, Gene. We’ve got your cap.
Al, thank you making my day at the NJAA Open House memorable and for allowing me to tell this story.
Dave (and Jennifer) Skitt AAAP Observatory Chairperson
- Gene Ramsey (1939-2016) obituary
- Amateur Astronomers Association of Princeton website
- New Jersey Astronomical Association website
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