The Legacy of Don Trantow

In the late 1990’s Don Trantow’s home voicemail caught the attention of the Lowell Observatory membership staff. “You have reached Donald Trantow and the Trantow Observatory,” said a serious sounding voice. The caller thought she’d mistakenly contacted another public observatory. As it turned out, Don’s observatory was of the backyard variety with a Meade 12” telescope.

Don Trantow

A committed amateur astronomer, Don became a $35 member of Lowell Observatory in 1998. He quickly increased his membership to the $500 Pluto Circle level, and later the $10,000 level Director’s Opportunity Network. In his 21 years of philanthropy to Lowell Observatory, Don underwrote Native American astronomy outreach, historic preservation, summer camp scholarships, astronomical research, and a variety of telescopes for public viewing, including the candy-apple red, 8” Moonraker refractor on the Giovale Open Deck Observatory.

In 2017, after a cancer diagnosis, Don contacted Lowell’s development team while drafting his estate documents. He had decided to leave a majority of his estate to the Lowell Observatory Foundation in support of Lowell’s mission of research, outreach, and historic preservation. Don lost his battle with cancer in early August of 2019. The first portion of his gift arrived in September, the balance of an annuity for which he had named the Lowell Observatory Foundation as beneficiary. The remainder of Don Trantow’s legacy gift will be added to the Foundation’s endowments in 2020.

During his last visit with Don, Lowell Director Jeff Hall shared photographs of the Moonraker Telescope. “At that point, Don had only about three weeks to live, and he was quite frail,” Jeff said. “But he was overjoyed to see the Moonraker and to hear about all the doings at Lowell. We talked for over an hour, and it was a privilege to bring him happiness and peace at the end of his life.”

We are grateful to Donald Trantow for the gifts he made to the Observatory during his lifetime as well as his very generous estate gift to the Lowell Observatory Foundation that will support our mission in perpetuity.

Trantow Observatory with open roof

Trantow Observatory with open roof

The Ahearn's Life-long Love for Astronomy

Bill and Susan Ahearn’s individual relationships with Lowell Observatory began before they met.

As a boy, Bill learned Pluto was discovered at Lowell Observatory. While vacationing in Flagstaff in 1967, Susan learned the Apollo astronauts had visited Lowell and trained here for their moon mission. In the 1970s, Bill and Susan visited together for the first time. While camping near Flagstaff, they visited Lowell’s Rotunda open house and Clark Telescope viewing.

Bill and Susan believe Lowell Observatory is a national treasure. They like envisioning Percival Lowell sitting at the Clark telescope observing Mars. They love that the only planet discovered in the United States was discovered on Mars Hill. They appreciate V. M. Slipher’s discovery of the expanding universe. Getting the chance to meet current Lowell astronomers and learning about their research is a special treat.

Lowell Observatory was a natural place for Bill and Susan to leave a gift through their will. Their bequest will help support the next 100 years of discovery and inspiration.

Percival Lowell Society: Joe Sims

Joe Sims and his mother on the Flagstaff train platform in 1998

Joe lives in Charleston, SC but is from Larchmont, NY, a suburb of NYC that actually had very clear skies back when he was young. After receiving with great enthusiasm his first 2.5″ refractor telescope from his parents, he discovered every planet but Pluto by just searching the sky nightly from his bedroom window. Each new planet added to the excitement of viewing. Then in 1998 he and his mother took a train trip west from Charleston, SC with a destination to reach Lowell Observatory so they could experience the place where the 9th planet, Pluto, was discovered.

When they entered the Observatory they both loved the exhibits, talks, historical telescopes of Lowell and the displays in the Rotunda. There was so much history that had been preserved for all to see and learn about. One of the experiences his mom enjoyed was viewing the sun for the first time through the solar scope in the courtyard. Joe enjoyed seeing the Pluto scope and viewing through the Clark at night.

What enhanced the value of the Lowell experience was meeting the friendly staff members who all seemed so dedicated and even with their busy schedules took the time to stop and answer their questions which meant a lot. This made their visit a more memorable one and also the last time Joe and his mom traveled together.

In 2008 he retired from 30 years of teaching but in 2009 Joe was diagnosed with cancer so he put Lowell in his estate plans in a Trust to ensure added financial support for Lowell to help continue with their research, maintenance of historical records and telescopes and educating the public on astronomy as well as every aspect that encompasses Lowell Observatory. As an educator he knew this was important.

Joe feels that the future of Lowell can only endure with true friends who support its historical value and future discoveries that can one day answer the many questions we long to learn about.

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