IN MEMORY OF SOME PAST ECLIPSE-CHASING FRIENDS
Sometimes you will meet a person for a week or two on our eclipse travels. Perhaps the details below will give you insight into a few of the remarkable people who have shared the love of solar eclipses with us.
GLENN ROARK (1929-2011)
He is survived by a sister, Francille Roark Tamplen of Arlington; by two daughters, Linda Jean Roark and her husband, Ford Turner, of Austin and Carol Elaine Roark and her husband, Lon Burnam, of Fort Worth; daughter-in-law Sara Neal Eskew of Austin, and many nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by his parents, brother Eugene Roark, son Larry Roark and wife Dorotha Roark.
Glenn was born on July 6, 1929, in Marfa, Texas, to Cloyd Earnest Roark and Lucy Ellene Lagow Roark. His father was a minister who pastored the First Baptist Church in the West Texas community. His mother was a descendent of Thomas and Sara Lagow, who were charter members of the Pilgrim Baptist Church, established by Daniel Parker and moved to Texas in 1835. Thomas served as a quartermaster in the Army of the Republic of Texas, and received a land grant where the City of Dallas is now located.
His family moved to Marshall, Texas, when he was in high school. He remembered studying at the Wiley College Library, because his beloved English teacher, Selma Brotze, told him that it was the best library in town. Bill Moyers, who was also raised in Marshall and had the same English teacher, spoke fondly of her impact on his own life and Glenn heartily agreed with his assessment. Glenn later attended Stephen F. Austin State College. During the summers, his mother, who was studying business, would join him and the two would commute to Nacogdoches together.
During this time, both of his parents taught at East Texas Baptist College in Marshall. Cloyd taught theology and foreign languages, and Lucy taught business. The family developed a love for Big Pines Lodge, a restaurant on the banks of the Cypress Bayou, and descendants continued to enjoy the all you can eat catfish dinners there until the lodge burned a few years ago.
Glenn enlisted in the U.S. Army as a medic after his junior year of college, serving during peace time between World War II and the Korean War. After completing his Army service, he used GI bill benefits to attend medical school at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. He received his college diploma at the same time he graduated from UTMB.
At UTMB, Glenn met a fellow medical student, Dorotha Jean [Dot] Lawler, and the two fell in love. They married on December 28, 1950, and Dot left school and worked in the lab and burn unit to support the young couple. Glenn received his MD in the spring of 1953, and he and Dot, who was pregnant with their first child, moved to Staten Island, New York, where Glenn started his residency at the New York Public Health Service Hospital. Carol Elaine Roark, their first daughter, was born at the hospital in July 1953. During his residency, Glenn provided weekend medical coverage at Ellis Island, screening immigrant arrivals. By this time, use of the huge facility was declining, and it closed in 1954. When the facility was being renovated as a museum, staff conducted an oral history with Glenn about his experiences there, and he was honored to have played a minor role in a big part of US history.
After nine months in New York, the Roarks moved to Dierks, Arkansas, where Glenn and his older brother, Wilson Eugene Roark, who was also a physician, worked as doctors for a lumber company. Glenn and his family then moved to Wichita Falls, Texas, where he set up a short-lived private practice, and he and Dot had a son, Lawrence Glenn [Larry] Roark, born in 1955.
The young couple was restless, and adventure called. Glenn was offered a job through the U. S. Department of the Interior in Micronesia, a group of islands in the South Pacific. With two young children in tow, they moved to Moen Island in the Truk Atoll (now called Chuuk) of the Caroline Islands. These islands were controlled by the Japanese before World War II and, after the war, the United Nations assigned their administration to the United States, while other countries provided support for other groups of islands. Glenn ran a small hospital in Truk, regularly hopping on a boat to make house calls on outlying islands. He trained many of the residents in nursing and medical services so that they could provide ongoing care. The family lived in a Quonset hut and posed their two children for Christmas card photos wearing island attire…grass skirts and loin cloths.
The island adventure came to a close in 1958 when Carol reached school age, and with the impending birth of a third child. Rather than flying home the way they had come (via Hawaii) Glenn and Dot cashed in their first class tickets and continued on around the world visiting Japan, Korea, and many European countries. They happily bought a 1958 VW Beetle in Germany and had the car shipped back to the states after using it to tour Europe.
The family moved to Columbia, Missouri, where Glenn worked at the University of Missouri Student Health Center, Linda Jean Roark was born in September 1958, only two weeks after the family arrived. Fond memories include camping trips throughout the western United States, attending MU football and basketball games, inviting the Sakati brothers, foreign students from Syria, for Thanksgiving dinner because they could not return home for the holidays, and looking at the giant world map on the wall in the basement. The family made many lifelong friends in Columbia and the children attended the excellent public schools in the city.
After a decade at the MU Student Health Center, Glenn decided to enter a psychiatric residency program at the university medical school to better be able to assist the students he saw. Upon completing the program, there were no positions available at MU, so the family returned to Texas, moving to Austin in 1970, where Glenn became a staff psychiatrist at the University of Texas Student Health Center.
In Austin, as the couple’s three children graduated high school and went off to college, Glenn and Dot put down roots. They joined the First Baptist Church and became active members. Glenn particularly enjoyed contributing his baritone voice to the choir. He volunteered his time with the Peoples Free Clinic, discovered astronomy and became an active member of the Austin Astronomical Society. He was a recognized figure on Austin streets as he bicycled to work every day, his Abraham Lincoln style beard differentiating him from the hoards of college students. During his career at UT, Glenn became the Director of Mental Health Services, a position he held until he retired in 1985.
Until his final retirement in 1997, Glenn established a private practice and was one of the few psychiatrists in Austin to see patients on a sliding fee scale. He truly believed that health care should be available to all. During this time, Glenn also served as medical director for two counseling services, making many close friends. Margaret Williams was one of those, and the two later shared private practice offices.
Glenn and Dot also began to travel internationally again, often going on total solar eclipse trips with Ring of Fire Expeditions. Glenn and Dot returned to Truk on one excursion, and Glenn made one of each of these trips with his three children: Carol to Outer Mongolia, Larry to Aruba, and Linda to Turkey. About this time, Glenn also began to play the violin again, reviving a childhood interest. He joined Silver Strings, a group that plays concerts at care centers and nursing homes throughout the Austin area, eventually becoming the director of the group.
In a strange set of circumstances, While Glenn was running the hospital on Truk, he delivered a baby who grew up to be U.S. astronaut James H. Newman (who went on one of the Hubble telescope repair missions). In recent years, he and James reconnected, and James had both Glenn and Dot out to see a launch of the space shuttle. James also came and spoke at an Austin Astronomical Society meeting.
In keeping with his belief in education and public service, Glenn donated his body to the Willed Body Program at the University of Texas at San Antonio Medical School, where it will be used to educate students about human anatomy. He would encourage anyone to consider this or organ donation.
RICHARD (DICK) MISCHKE (1921-2010)
In San Antonio, he was very involved in the restoration project years ago where the Majestic Theater was renewed and is now a Broadway show center. Dick was so impressed with the Majestic, especially the starry ceiling in the auditorium, that he did the two-story high ceiling of his living room in the same style with lights forming constellations. And that house of his, what a palace! He deliberately chose the location on a bluff overlooking San Antonio. The whole city was spread out in front of his rear patio. He would brag about how his house was the same elevation as the top of the Tower of the Americas. San Antonio rises 600 feet from downtown to north Loop 410, but never challenged him on that topography. Another bragging point about his house was how he equated the foothills that end in north San Antonio as geologically being the termination of the formation we call the Rocky Mountains and how his house was litterally on the edge of that. There was a pretty big cliff over the wall of his back yard. But again, I think these geography claims are more like embellished pilot’s stories.
As for Dick’s flying, he served as a World War II P-38 Lightning pilot. In the South Pacific, he was part of the crew that went after Admiral Yamamoto and shot him down. Dick was in the wrong part of the Pacific in that operation and was not personally involved in the shoot-down, but he was part of the group effort. He also related the story of how he went through the war without a scratch, but was bitten by a tropical caterpillar that paralized him for a time. Made him stiff as a board. He said his C.O. wasn’t worried about whether he would die, but how soon he could fly again. Dick also related how the closest he came to harm was when he was flying straight and level somewhere and on a whim decided to alter course for a while. As soon as he banked away, an antiaircraft shell burst exactly where he would have been if he had not banked. The Japanese had him sighted and he didn’t know it. Dick was one of the ones who survived the post-war RIF and went on to jets. He also was a partner in a small airline that flew between Saipan and Guam. As an F-84 pilot he did excercises where he would carry an old IFI style nuclear weapon and have to navigate practice strikes using old fashioned sextant style instruments while flying a clunky old F-84. He ended up in F-4 Phantoms in Vietnam. That’s quite a span of aviation.
Another quick tale about Dick, back when I built my observatory in the mid-1980′s, then moved it out to Comfort, Dick not only was the only one who helped me paint it upon completion, he volunteered unasked to do it with me. I was impressed because I regarded him as an “old man”. Of course, he was then what my age is now, so I can see why he was chugging around like he did. Anyway, Dick showed up in that huge Cadilac he drove back then and he was dressed in his usual casual khaki pants and shirt, except this pair was obviously his painting clothes. I don’t think there was a square inch of those clothes that didn’t have paint on them. If he took them off, I am sure they were so stiff from paint they would stand alone like a scarecrow. I don’t know if you ever saw his house, all three stories of it with the exterior spiral staircase up to the 3rd floor observation area overlooking all of San Antonio, but he painted that place himself. It was huge! The guy was a go-getter even in “old age”. Another point about him was his love of photography other than astrophotography. He had been a photographer all his life and was an absolute master with black and white portraiture. He showed Mary and I his gallery of mounted prints once and they were spectacular. They were so good Mary was even impressed with his nudes. He was actually almost a photographic scientist. I don’t think he ever threw away an image, even if it was bad, as he analyzed it to see what went wrong with it. His collection of failed astrophotos was a fantastic resource for when I wrote “Wide-Field Astrophotography” for Willmann-Bell. He gratiously let me use not only his good images in the book, but the duds as samples of what happens when specific technical points are wrong during the imaging session. Of course, I had to explain in the book that Dick was a superior photographer and he kept the clunkers as instructional examples. I suspect he graduated from film to digital after we drifted apart in recent years, but I will say he had the film photo darkroom from hell back in the day. I used it to create some of the illustrations in my first book, The Superpower Space Race, then again for my Wide-Field Astrophotography, and it was fantastic.
His modesty did not reflect what he actually accomplished in the military during defense of our country in three wars: 67 combat missions in WW II flying P-38s out of New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, 100 jet missions in Korea, and a whopping 274 combat missions in Vietnam, a record at the time. He was also the 12th most decorated pilot at the time. Dick Mischke was a REAL American Hero and one of the last true gentlemen; and he will truly be missed by all his many friends and family.
MARY SCHIFLETT (1925-2007)
I met Mary in November of 1994 while traveling with a group to South America to observe a total eclipse of the sun. For those of you that have never experienced a total eclipse, you may wonder why anyone would travel around the world to distant foreign countries for such a brief event. It turns out that Mary had the bigger picture in mind. That is, she savored the adventure of the journey as well as the actual eclipse itself. Mary enjoyed making new friends along the way in addition to exploring our destination countries. She always made it a point to visit museums, paying particular attention to local artwork.
On the day of the eclipse, Mary was the tour member responsible for recording the temperature changes that occur before, during and after totality. She took this responsibility very seriously and was quite meticulous in her attention to detail. As a side-note, during the 1994 eclipse trip, Mary signed up for an extended cruise down the Amazon River. However, during this adventure, all of Mary’s luggage was lost and she had to share clothes with another eclipse chaser, Celia Moynihan. Upon returning to Houston, Mary reportedly burned the blouse that she had worn for almost a week.
In 1998, our eclipse group traveled to the island of Curacao in the southern Carribean. This must have been a very, very special eclipse for Mary since she was able to share the experience with members of her family, Raymond and Peggy. In 1999, Mary traveled to the Canary Islands to view a meteor shower. Our group stayed up until almost dawn as we watched the meteor display through openings in a partly cloudy sky.
It was during one of my earliest conversations with Mary that I discovered that we shared a common travel goal, that is, to eventually set foot on each of the seven continents. Well, Mary beat me to it, achieving her goal in January of 2000 when she traveled to Antarctica and walked among the penguins.
In June of 2001, our group traveled to the African countries of Zimbabwe and Zambia for yet another eclipse. Mary visited with the native peoples, observed wildlife, explored museums and listened to local music. In April of 2005, Mary invited a group of her eclipse friends to Houston to be her guest for brunch and to reminisce about our previous travels and adventures.
Mary was an individual with an adventurous spirit and will be truly missed as our group continues to travel, chasing eclipses around the world.
ACCOUNT OF HER LIFE
Mary Schiflett passed away on January 13, 2007 at age 81. She was born September 23, 1925 in El Paso, TX and moved to Dallas where she was outstanding senior girl graduate of Highland Park High School. She attended Southern Methodist Univeristy on a music scholarship but later changed her major to economics and journalism and graduated with honors.
She was a member of 5 honor societes and won 1st prize in the Cokesbury contest for the best essay by a college under graduate. Her love and talent in music was demonstrated by writing an operetta while in high school that led to her college scholarhip. Throughout her life she played the piano both by note and ear and she wrote a number of songs for special occasions and to honor friends. She was given a special award by the American Red Cross for having performed as a singer, pianist, and accordianist for more than 1000 hours at hospitals and military bases across North and Central Texas during World War II and turned down several opportunities to turn professional with her music while still at college.
At SMU she was a journalist for THE SEMI-WEEKLY CAMPUS. Upon graduation she first worked for the US Dept. of Commerce at its regional office as an economics historian. Later she was assistant editor of the Dallas Chamber of Commerce’s journal DALLAS.
In 1948 she married Ray Schiflet II and they moved to Houston. She continued her career as a writer, joining the staff of McGraw-Hill’s BUSINESS WEEK. When the marriage ended she enrolled at the University of Houston obtaining a masters degree in English Literature and continued as a free-lance editor and writer for economics and business journals. She taught economic planning in the Future Studies Program at UH-Clear Lake and city planning in the College of Architecture on the Main UH campus. At UH and Rice universities she received a number of national grants including one from the Sloan Foundation and two from the National Endowment for the Humanities and these projects resulted in her contributing articles and chapters to books published nationally.
In 1984 she joined the executive staff of the Texas Medical Center as Associate Director for Planning. She held successively senior positions until her temporary retirement in 1998 as Vice President for Public Affairs. After an extended trip to South America, she returned to TMC becoming Vice President/Consultant, a position she held until December 2006. Twelve years before the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed Mary recognized the need for handicapped facilities at the Texas Medical Center and initiated guidelines which enabled facilities to be installed at all onsite buildings.
She was listed for many years in WHOS WHO IN AMERICA and other national and international biographical directories. She was the first woman member of the Rotary Club of River Oaks in 1997 and was awarded its Outstanding Member plaque for her service, and and was President in 2003-2004. She was a member of the executive committee for the Friends of Hermann Park; on the volunteer service council of the Institute for International Education’s Southern Regional District; and President for two years of the Downtown Club.
EUOLOGY FROM DEBBIE MORAN
I first met Mary on an eclipse trip to Africa. When I lost my suitcase somewhere on the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia, it was Mary who came to the rescue with a loan of undergarments for the few days remaining. Her generosity went even beyond that when she informed me there was no need to return them. Mary’s desire to travel to see eclipses says something about who she was. I think it is because chasing eclipses is more than just a gee-whiz experience. It satisfies on many levels: as a thing of beauty, as an extraordinary natural phenomenon full of rapidly changing effects, as a cultural experience as it brings together people from many different parts of the world, and for many, there is a spiritual aspect. Besides being one of the most beautiful sights one can hope to see, an eclipse, more than anything else I can think of, makes this corner of the solar system seem tailor made for humans. I always marvel at how two completely unrelated objects, the moon, a rock only about the quarter the diameter of earth, and the sun, a star which could swallow a million earths, could be placed in the heavens in such a way that from our point of view here on earth, their apparent size is nearly the same. When every year or two, they happen to coincide in such a way that the moon completely blocks the chromosphere of the sun and the normally invisible corona appears, the effect is miraculous. It is one of those things that makes you grateful to be alive. I remember our tour guide in Africa saying he did not fully understand why we bothered to go to all this effort. After the eclipse, he said, “Now I see.” I know Mary also appreciated the way eclipses draw people to explore different cultures. We have found ourselves in parts of the world we may have never thought about visiting otherwise. This serendipity of experience is another great attraction of eclipse travel.
After we returned to Houston, Mary became a lunch companion. She was also a Symphony patron, and as a musician with the Symphony, I appreciated her support. We often spoke of conductors and interpretations as well as symphony politics. I always thought it was extremely cool that she had to steer our lunches around activities such as showing PBS camera crews around the Medical Center. She struck me not only as interesting in her own pursuits, but also as interested in others. For me, Mary was a model to aspire to, with her grace, dignity, and engagement in life. I was right in the middle of getting to know her better, and feel greatly that I have missed a lot.
DENISE NYE (1946-2006)