A version of this note was shared on my personal Facebook page.

Dave Lane standing at a podium, wearing a formal outfit at SMU.

Whew, here we go: We lost my mentor, colleague, and friend Dave Lane last Sunday. Dave was one of the largest influences in my life over the last ten years and while he’s incredibly well-known for his contributions to astronomy (outreach, RASC, observatory automation, discoveries, publications, awards etc.), his joy in sailing, and his ability to always have the right spare parts on hand… he also had a profound personal impact on everyone that knew him. And he had a huge impact on me.

Image from inside the BGO dome, Dave is standing on a ladder with his head inside the telescope, looking at Tiffany standing on the ground.

He was witty, he was a do-er, he knew how to fix any problem he came across. When testing a solution to a problem, he’d joke “it’ll either work or it won’t!” and I’ve found myself incorporating that silly phrase into my own problem-solving adventures.

Dave retired from SMU in April 2022 and I took over his position as the Astronomy Technician. (Those are big shoes to fill!) We overlapped in work for a couple months (thank goodness) and Dave did his best to teach me everything he knew. But, wow, he knew so much - and he was such a good teacher.

Dave connected me to the skies through the Burke-Gaffney Observatory, first when I was a student and learning how to be a student telescope operator, then as a mentor as I took it over. Dave provided me with the opportunities to become a science communicator, to gain confidence in myself, to become a better person - all just while allowing me to squeeze myself into the Observatory space in a variety of projects while I was a student and then after.

After his retirement, he was happy to help when I ran into something new that we hadn’t covered. We had lots of plans and were in the midst of a few projects when he was diagnosed with brain cancer last summer. Then, we had even more plans! And quick! We had plans to try to get all of the information we could out of his brain and into mine!

But we didn’t get to. There’s so much we didn’t get to do, so many projects that were left unfinished, and so much more I could have learned.

Image from inside the BGO dome, Dave is looking at his phone while standing underneath the telescope.

And now I’m in charge of the Burke-Gaffney Observatory… by myself… By myself. He single-handedly built the BGO into the incredible facility it is today - automated, busy, connected to the world. And now it’s just me.

We knew Dave didn’t have long shortly after his diagnosis, but his death hits so hard. I was lucky to have so much time with Dave and to work so closely with him, but I wish there could have been more.

And I’ll be damned if I don’t keep spare parts around.

My heart aches for Dave’s family and many friends, and for Michelle Lane. Dave and his wife Michelle left a substantial gift to SMU and to NSCC after Dave’s death. Star Finder - The David Lane Astronomy Outreach Program at SMU will be particularly important to me.

I have so many paper notes, photos, and audio and video recordings of Dave and I working together, or mostly just Dave teaching me what he knows. I’ve attached a small sample here.

Miss you, Dave. I’m always working to build upon what you’ve built.

Short animation of Dave and Tiffany in the Observatory dome with the Burke-Gaffney Observatory telescope on the ground, attached to a crane.