Dan Harrison Obituary and AAA Tributes

from Michael O’Gara

At the annual meeting it was announced that former Board Member and long-time Eyepiece editor Dan Harrison had passed away on April 28, 2020.  I knew Dan in my capacity as the club’s vice president and then president of the association and worked with him for many years after that on the Board.

Remembering Dan Harrison

I don’t know exactly when I met Dan for the first time, but I do remember he was smart and funny. He had a very erudite sense of humor. Anything you said could be the basis for a pun with Dan.

President Lynn Darsh had enlisted Dan to be the editor of Eyepiece in an effort to make it more of a monthly newsletter that spoke to the needs of the membership and the needs of the AAA as a club.  Prior to Dan’s taking the helm, Eyepiece was a mimeographed bulletin, filled with scribbles and scrawls, ramblings and non sequiturs: in short, it was a mess.  Dan took his considerable professional skills in publishing and created a stable of writers, a system of production, and employed an unfailing editor’s eye all, in an effort to produce what we now know as The Eyepiece.  He created structure out of chaos and created one of the best club monthlies in the universe of astronomy club newsletters in the US.  And he did it every month for years.  We often would have mailing parties at Lynn’s apartment, and then take huge satchels of newsletters to disparate mailboxes on the Upper West Side.  I can recall many a frozen night, stuffing hundreds of copies in a mailbox and heaving a sigh of relief when the task was done, until next month.

Dan was also a member of the Board of Directors, and he always gave restrained, thoughtful advice on club matters.

As fate would have it, I ran into Dan just 5 months ago, after not seeing him since 2012.  A relative of mine was in a hospital in Westchester County for the flu.  This was in December, and it was before the current pandemic.   When I entered the emergency room, I looked on a video screen to see where they had taken my relative and right there on the screen it also said Harrison, Dan. I thought, I wonder if that’s the Dan I know.  So I poked my head into his room, and he recognized me immediately.  He was in for some observation because he just didn’t feel right.  He told me had suffered a small stroke a couple of years earlier, and just wanted to have someone check out what was currently bothering him.  His handshake was strong, his voice was sharp, and that wit of his was still attuned.  He asked about the club, and what my wife and I had been up to.  I explained why I was there, and then a group of nurses came in to administer some tests to him.  I wished him luck and said goodbye.  And in a couple of hours his name had been removed from the emergency room listings, so I figured they had admitted him for observation.  That was the last time I saw Dan.

He was cheerful, inquisitive, interested, and thoughtful, inquiring about those folks we both held in common. He remembered his time with the AAA of NY fondly. The truth is Dan gave a good part of his time and energy to the AAA of NY, and we’re a better club because of it.  But that’s not unusual for our membership.

I’ll look for you and Lynn in the stars some night Dan.  All the best, and farewell, my friend.

Michael O’Gara, West Ghent NY, May 21, 2020

AAA President, June 2002–June 2006

from George Hripcsak

I was very sad to hear of Dan Harrison’s passing, and sadder that we had not been in contact for several years.  When Dan took over Eyepiece, I think in the early 2000s, I became a frequent contributor, much of it at Dan’s promptings.  Dan was a great editor, always encouraging  potential astronomy stories and club business.  He would occasionally come up to where I work so that we could lunch together and talk about astronomy and life in general.  I miss him.

from Mary Alford

Dan was admired by many, viewed as controversial by some others.  He turned Eyepiece from a cut & paste format into a typed, organized newsletter.  He wrote a fine article about Lynn Darsh at the time of her death.  Lynn was AAA president June 1992–June 2006, and Dan’s partner for 12 years.  Dan involved himself in many club responsibilities; the mailing parties were notable, where he rendered excruciating puns and strong political opinions.

from Tom Haeberle

Dan Harrison, as I remember him, friend, and someone I admired for his professionalism and his skill as an editor and writer; also, the fact that he appeared on Jeopardy and won as a champion was impressive. For eight years, from 2003 to 2011, we served together on the Board of the Amateurs Astronomers Association (AAA),

He loved history and I enjoyed our discussions on presidents and political history trivia. Dan was a big encouragement to me as a writer and he helped me get published in the Astronomical society of the Pacific’s journal, Mercury.

As editor of the AAA’s, the Eyepiece for over a decade, he ran a tight ship, making sure deadlines were met and providing the publication with many facets to its layout, such as book reviews and it’s Astronomy Briefs section. He worked tirelessly on the publication making sure content was varied, and that articles were informative and well-written. I was part of his team that I was proud to be a part of, helping with the folding of the newsletter and the mass mailings that we would do anywhere, from the Church annex or from a friend’s apartment.

It was a pleasure to have known him and he will truly be missed.



by family members and friends

(Many thanks to Tom Haeberle for reaching out to Dan’s loved ones:  “I am sending you the publication with tributes to Dan from our astronomy club that Dan devoted much of his time and energy.  I’m very grateful to have met him and shared a friendship and time with him….sorry I never got to see him again.”)

Abby Eller, Ithaca:

Hello, friends of Dan and Mollie; I am Dan’s younger sister.

It is hard to tell you that Dan died on April 23 in Westchester Medical Center.  He had been falling over the last few years, in and out of two rehab facilities and in the hospital.  He dimply wasn’t strong enough to have a triple-bypass that his weak heart needed badly.  His kidneys were failing and mobility limited.  In rehab, he was exposed to COVID-19.  Sadly, we couldn’t visit him for weeks on end.  Then he went to the hospital after two-and-a-half days at home with an aide.  At least Dan had a little time at the house in Briarcliff Manor that he and Mollie loved so much.  Spring is really lovely there.

Our family is really heartbroken that we couldn’t see Dan before he died.  So many families are going through unmourned or honored deaths of our loved ones.  In these contagious times, I have no plans for any gathering about Dan’s life.  There was a factual obituary I wrote in the Westchester Journal News and in the Croton Gazette.  It appeared about a week after Dan died.  You can easily search for it under Obituaries at the Westchester Journal News.  Always a newsman [sic], I decided to stick to the facts of Dan’s life.

Thank you for caring about both Mollie and Dan.  My family miss them every day.  Stay safe and well.

Janet Kelley-Harmon:

He was an old friend — his wife Mollie and I worked together many years ago.  Over the past few years, he sent clippings from The New York Times to my husband to keep him up-to-date on law enforcement issues.  We miss hearing from him.

from Alan Pearlmutter, Boston:

I am a first cousin of Dan.  I appreciate having these tributes and learning a great deal more about what Dan did for the AAA, of which I knew little.  It especially gladdens me to see how his literary and editing skills were put to such empowered use for your organization.  Knowing Dan as a man who found interest in many areas and walks of professional and avocational life, these tributes bring me a greater appreciation for his gifts and generosity.  I am a professional musician and professor.  Dan’s interest in my teaching and performance activities in recent years helps me realize that the people we touch with our talents and experience, lift the quality of life and friendship to much higher levels than we could ever imagine.  That is why the example that Dan set continues to provide me with sufficient evidence that true happiness lies in what we give to others.