Tuesday, February 8, 2011

In memory of Walter Steiger - rest in peace

This one took me a day to even think about posting. Walter was so much more than most people realize. I know that without him a lot of us, me included (astronomers and support staff on Mauna Kea) wouldn't even be here.

Walter was my boss at some point, when I was working at the Caltech Submillimeter Observatory, and he sure was a good one. That was after he retired for the second time. Walter(who was almost a year older than my Dad is) was a very honest and humble person. He would never have given himself the credit I do. He wrote a History of Astronomy in Hawaii which you can find here.

My husband Norman knew Walter way longer than I did, he was a graduate student at UH Manoa when Walter was the chairman of the department and one of his stories still makes me chuckle. It describes both of them very well. They were basically making sure of the integrity of the other (actually, Walter was making sure of Norman's (after all, Walter was the boss) but the way that worked out it assured both of the integrity of the other).

Walter retired from UH Manoa, then headed the Bishop Museum Planetarium (and then some, as I read in the Trib), retired from there to become the site manager of the CSO (where he was one of my bosses, and a good one), retired from there to lecture at UHH, became interim director of the Imiloa and when he retired from there returned to the CSO (Caltech Submm Observatory) to do at least some of their PR/outreach work until he got killed in this traffic accident last Sunday.

Walter's eyesight wasn't very good anymore so he went around on a motor scooter. He went to the CSO office on it several days a week, he did the grocery shopping that way (I know his wife Betty gave up driving years earlier, he told me, and I saw him in the stores on occasion).

Now here are some of my own assumptions: The accident happened on Superbowl Sunday.
The Trib says Walter had picked up medications for his wife's (Betty's) arthritis. The only pharmacy open on Sundays in downtown Hilo is Longs. If he crossed Komohana Street he must have come up Kukuau Street. Just before that intersection Kukuau is rather steep. While Walter's moped may have gone on the order of 45 mph going down the Mohouli Extension (I saw him there on my way to work on occasion) it most certainly couldn't have gone up Kukuau at that speed (except for the last about 60 or so feet, but if would have had to speed up considerably), more likely about 15 mph.

Last night after work I was on my way to the downtown KTA and drove through that intersection (made me cry again) and saw the police markings. If Walter was in the middle of the intersection going about 15 mph, the SUV that hit him (I very much doubt he hit the SUV) either sped over the blind hill or could have avoided him if they had been paying attention.

What the Hawaii Tribune Herald (earlier attributed as Trib) published can be found here and here.

I will miss Walter. A lot.

And I hope they will name the new UHH science building after him.

There is a blog with contributions from many people here:

1 comment:

Stone & Bone said...

Mahalo and aloha for this,