Roger "Buck" Harley
I first met Buck on-line on various
yahoo groups related to various
scopes. He had recently had a stroke, which had affected his
writing skills, but it was clear he knew what he was doing with
precision machinery. I soon found out he lived near LaPorte,
Indiana, only about 100 miles north of my location, where I had
recently been lucky enough to be co-founder of a new
Besides his frequent informative
responses to questions on the yahoo groups, the
first sign of his generosity came after he upgraded his LX200 classic
to a new LX200GPS. He found there was a problem in the
drive's gear train, caused by the use of inexpensive plastic
gears. He did the development work to create replacement
gears made of stainless steel
, then gave the specs, free of
royalties, to Pete
, creator and manufacturer of the "Eyeopener" and several
other machined upgrades for the LX200, for distribution to the
In the spring of 2005 I got an email
from Buck that he had decided to donate his
Meade 178ED refractor to our observatory. His health problems had
been getting worse, and his doctor had recently said he only had about
two years left to live, so he had been selling off some of his
scopes. But he couldn't get a good price for the refractor, so he
decided to donate it to us.
The scope in Buck's roll-off observatory.
(l-r) John Mahony, Buck, and then-WVAS
In the summer of 2006, we
built a domed observatory for it:
Full construction details are here
The scope in the dome
We finished the dome the day before the 2006 Indiana Family Star Party
, and had
a plaque made for the dedication, to be held during the event.
Buck had hoped to make it to the dedication, but had to cancel at the
last minute due to health problems.
The following year, we had a record
crowd at IFSP 2007, and had beautifully clear skies both Friday and
Saturday nights. On Saturday, exactly one "star party year" after
the dedication, at a little past noon, we had a group
photo taken in front of the dome, with the refractor showing through
the dome shutter. Then shortly after the picture was taken, I
heard from WVAS President Alan East that he had just gotten a phone
call from Buck's wife Sandy, saying that Buck had died earlier that
morning. The timing was ironic, but somehow appropriate.
Here's an obituary
from his local paper, the LaPorte County Herald-Argus:
Mr. Roger A. “Buck” Harley, 61, of Mill Creek, died of natural
causes Saturday, Aug. 11, 2007, at 3:55 a.m. at his home.
He was born Dec. 30, 1945, in Battle Creek, Mich., to Loyal and Mary
Harley retired from Howmet Corp. He was a Marine Corps recruiter in
Iowa and Hawaii. He was a member of the Astronomy Club of West
Lafayette, for which he donated a very large telescope. He was a
graduate of Union Township schools. He built computers and many things
in wood for his home, played the guitar, rebuilt cars and trucks and
took in many stray animals. He was a U.S. Marine Corps veteran of
Vietnam, having achieved the rank of sergeant. He received the Purple
Heart, Vietnam Service and Campaign medals, Presidential Unit
Commendation, Combat Action Ribbon, Vietnam Meritorious Unit
Commendation with Palm, Gallantry Cross, Navy Unit Commendation, and
Letter of Commendation.
On April 4, 1992, in La Porte, he married Sandra J. Spickard, who
surviving are two sons, Shawn (Mary) Spickard of Hamlet and Scott
(Christi) Spickard of La Porte; four grandsons, Nicholas and Tyler
Spickard, Caleb Jackson and Jake Satkoski; one sister, Brenda Murray of
La Porte; and two brothers, Duane Harley of Fenton, Mo., and Ralph
Rankin of Hamlet.
He was preceded in death by his mother; two brothers, Bill and Don;
and his grandparents.
funeral will be Tuesday at 1 p.m. at Cutler Funeral Home, La Porte,
with Rev. Ron Devenport officiating and with full military rites.
Friends may call today from 4 to 8 p.m. and Tuesday from 11 a.m. until
the service. Cremation will follow.
Memorial contributions may be made to the American Diabetes
Association, 7363 E. 21st St., Indianapolis, IN 46219.
Buck had other technical hobbies- he made small working models of both
steam engines and jet engines, and made high-voltage electric discharge