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Words of Remembrance for Janet A. Mattei


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Dear members, staff, and friends of the AAVSO. It is my very sad duty to inform you all that Dr. Janet Mattei died at 4:20 PM today 3/22/04 at the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital after a long battle with Acute Myelogenous Leukemia. In typical Janet fashion she fought a heroic battle with this deadly disease for the past 7 months, but in the past few weeks it overcame her. Last Tuesday she asked that I inform her friends worldwide when this time came for her. Last evening she slipped into a coma, and passed away just minutes ago.

The AAVSO has lost a strong leader who has guided our organization to greatness. The world of astronomy has lost a patron of her field. Amateur astronomers the world over have lost a mentor who bridged the world of amateurs and professionals. I, along with many others the world over who knew her well, have lost a dear friend who will be deeply missed.

Information about services will be forthcoming soon.

—Mario Motta, MD

I am completely crushed. I was so fortunate to count her as a friend and a mentor. Her wisdom went far beyond her knowledge. The world is colder and we are all much poorer tonight. —Jim Bedient

My deepest sympathies to all those who knew Janet and condolences to her family and friends.

This is a very sad day. —Brian Warner

I would like to send my deepest sympathies and more sincere condolences to Janet's family and close friends. It was a priveledge and honor to have known Janet for so many years. She will be greatly missed. —Michael Newberry

Janet was so unbelievable kind to me and supportive and even though I was a small part of her life, this leaves a big hole. My sincere condolences for her family and many, many friends. This is a hard day for the AAVSO and to human beings in general.

God speed, Janet. —Michael Koppelman

Janet was one of those rare people you are occasionally blessed to meet who had the ability to change the direction in people's lives for the better. She grew AAVSO from a small organization with blue print based charts to one of the the key players in variable star research. This was not a smooth and painless growth - growth never is. She was all the more remarkable for how she grew to embrace technology such as computers, CCDs, web sites, downloaded charts, discussion groups, and all the rapid changes AAVSO has made in my brief (compared to many of you) association with it. Most importantly, Janet grew with her staff, and placed extraordinary confidence and discretion with them; something that did not come easy but was essential given the logarithmic growth of AAVSO observations and activities. The fruit of this growth is the seamless way that Elizabeth, Aaron, and all the staff have been able to function since Janet took ill. This is perhaps the most remarkable thing about her - she somehow was able to prepare her staff, and even us members, for the transition none of us ever wanted to see: AAVSO without Janet. That time is now here. We will all get though it. Thank you, Janet, for all you did, were, and inspired in all of us. —Chuck Pullen

This is a very, very sad day. She helped me in my entry to professional astronomy and was a dear friend, as is Mike. Our prayers go with Mike and the AAVSO. —Rik Hill

A very difficult day, and very unexpected. Janet was a treasure to the astronomical community, the scientific community, and to many, many ordinary folks. She brought the wonderful excitement of astronomy and and the satisfaction of astronomical friendships to so many; her influence was great, and she will be sorely missed and long remembered. My prayers are with her family and colleagues at the AAVSO office. A great loss! Her influence will live long through the excellent staff she brought to the AAVSO office; it is first rate, and they will bring us through this, I'm sure--they have already earned the respect and affection of all of us, and hold our every confidence. —Bill Zeilstra

Professional astronomers have lost one of their best. Amateur astronomers have lost a great mentor, supporter and friend. The world has lost a wonderful person. My sincerest sympathies to Mike, Janet's family, and the AAVSO staff. —Dave Hurdis

My condolences to family and friends.

I'm so very downcast beacuse that.

Now, every time, when I look toward the sky I'll know that Janet's Star live there.

Clear skies for you Janet... —Frota (Brazil)

Folks, I feel quite sad as I just read the news about my friend Janet. She was one of the finest ladies I ever met. I will miss her! I send my sympathy to Mike and the entire HQ staff. I'd love to hug you all right now. My prayers are with you. —Chris Stephan

I rolled in from spring break at 10:30. Turned on the computer and checked e-mails. I was shocked and saddened to learn of the passing of a truly great woman. She blazed a wide trail in astronomy. I wonder how many young women in astronomy today owe their career choice to Janet and her example. Janet encouraged me in presenting a paer last spring at the AAVSO convention. Without her support I'm not sure that I would not have cancelled my talk. I felt like a kindergardener in a college class and yet Janet gave me great encouragement to continue my presentation.

My condolences to Mike and the family. May God ease your pain and bear you up in your hour of need. —Paul Temple

Sad news for all the world of Astronomy.
My deepest condolences to Janet's family and all her friends. —Sebastian Otero.

In Latin America, a lot of people is also expressing their feelings about her in different forums. This is one of the messages received from Oscar Osorio de Guatemala:

"Janet Mattei, rest in peace. God keeps a place for you in the endless space of stars"

I can only speak of this from a very personal perspective. The tragedy is too vast to sum up in a few distanced words. This May will be my 6th year anniversary at the AAVSO. During those years Janet helped to completely change my life. It is clear that without her I would not be the person I am today and I certainly would not have much of the good fortune that has found my way in that time.

I came to the AAVSO has a tired worker from the fast paced dotcom world. Working at the AAVSO is about as different from that as can be. I underwent serious culture shock. One gets to know your coworkers quite well in such a small environment. The relationships you have are unique and transcend the typical "friend at work" situation.

Janet trained an IT worker to become an astronomer even though I don't have a PhD. She gave me professional freedom, independence and opportunity. She always had time for my questions and never grew impatient. She went out of her way to show me how certain things worked when all she had to do was tell me to "do this" or "do that". There were times when she could have spent 5 minutes to do something, but instead spent 2 hours showing me how to do it. And she forgave all my mistakes. She was as perfect of a definition of mentor as could be. If everyone in this world had a mentor like her then we would all love our jobs and the world would be a far better place.

But we didn't always agree. In fact, there were many times when we both wanted to pull our hair out because we did not see eye-to-eye. I mention these times because it is in those disagreements that lie ann illustrated truth about Janet's nature. Every argument and disagreement we had ended with the same result: a hug. An honest to goodness hug! A point would always be reached when we would look at each other and just know that it was over and we would walk over and hug each other. Then we'd laugh about how we argued and for another 15 minutes would be spent talking about something lighthearted or fun. This isn't hyperbole but the literal truth. How many of you can hug your boss after a disagreement? And the strangest part of it all was that it didn't seem strange at all! It wasn't until she got sick last fall that I realized how unique it was to have such a relationship with ones boss.

And don't forget she was part of a team with Mike. Beyond the mentorship there was a friendship with Mike and Janet. In my kitchen are furniture, mittens, books and a fern that they donated to me. I once spent 2 months in vain trying to find a lawn chair that would lay flat to watch meteors showers. Janet brought in a purple one for me just in time for the Leonids. Mike gave me alignment tips for my LX-200 and taught me how to clean the optics. He has given me all sorts of observing and equipment advice along with wonderful stories about the history of the AAVSO and amateur astronomy in general over the last few decades. When you think of Janet, please remember Mike.

Today I felt much anger over this. But tonight that anger is filled with complete joy. I looked at those items in the kitchen and I saw how brilliantly colored they are to me. I saw how wonderful my life is now in so many ways. And I see how each of the great gifts I have in my life are somehow related to Janet. She gave me so much that I needed to grow as a human. Everything in my life has her spirit flowing through it. I know over time that spirit will fade somewhat. But the beauty of it is that it will never disappear because everything I will be will be able to be traced back to something I learned with or from her. This foundation will always exist and as such a piece of her will always exist with me, forever.

I know I am not unique, I am a drop in a vast ocean. One of hundreds or thousands of humans that Janet has touched in such a way. As a result of her existence, many lives are improved and the world is a better place. I can only speak from my own experience, seeing the Universe through my own telescope. But I have the comfort of knowing that as I look at that lonely star in the sky - that I am not alone. There are many other eyes looking at it. Such is the view of the world from anyone who has known Janet.

May the beauty of the universe comfort and bestow its gifts on Mike and the rest of her family. —Aaron Price

I would also like to express my condolences to Dr. Mattei's family and friends.

I never had the pleasure of attending a meeting or meeting her in person, yet the news has left me very sad. Twenty years ago when I was a teenager just getting interested in the stars, I happened to glance up with binoculars and noticed that R Coronae Borealis had seemed to drop out of sight. I wrote a letter to the AAVSO to ask about it. I was expecting a form letter or nothing in reply. Imagine my surprise when a personally typed letter from the Director arrived within days, confirming that this star was active and congratulating me on a personal discovery. A year later I was a member.

I wonder how many others were inspired by Janet to study the night sky. —Paul Zeller

What a sad day!
I'm just arriving home and just reading the message. It's very difficult to me to express my feelings at this moments. Janet was a marvelous friend for long time. It was great to work with her. It's incredible to think that she will never be there... My deepest sympathies and more sincere condolences to Mike and Janet's family —Jaime Garcia (Argentina)

You never think about it until it happens. You always think you'll have the time. And then, you're proven wrong.

I first became aware of the AAVSO during graduate school. Two of my classmates were members, one of them worked there, as a matter of fact. I was aware of what they did and to be honest, all through grad school it was in the back of my mind to join the organization because I could both see the good that it did and what I could do in it. It never quite happened until a month ago, however.

I became aware of Janet a few years ago through her writings. One of my graduate projects was an inclusive report on Pro-Am efforts in the Astronomical community and, of course, the AAVSO was write large in that report. In fact, that report will form the basis of the lecture I'll be giving at Feurtes Observatory at Cornell on April 30th. Even back then I was aware that variable star data gathering was the AAVSO, and the AAVSO was Janet.

When I finally got off my butt a month ago and joined AAVSO I learned that Janet was in the hospital battling a bout of leukemia. The battle was going well and I honestly thought, "Big deal. Beth, my foster sister, had leukemia and she's fine." You get to the point where you think nearly any disease is just treatable.

I started talking with Aaron at AAVSO and we recognized we'd been classmates in graduate school together. He's been a factor in my current drive to try to do something with my degree. I remember him saying, "You'll have to meet Janet. She knows everyone. She not only knows everyone, she knows everyone's kids and the names of all their pets!"

I don't remember a single conversation I had with any of the staff at AAVSO where Janet's name didn't come up. It was obvious that these people - and more - thought of this woman as the staff of the West Wing thinks of President Bartlett. Toby's comment to the President - "There's no one in this room who wouldn't rather die than let you down" - seemed to apply to the people who knew and worked for Janet. I really looked forward to meeting her.

But that is not to be.

Tonight the Net is alive with condolences coming in from all over the world: Japan, Brazil, Pakistan, Argentina, Guatemala, as well as the United States. Messages are also coming in from various organizations across the spectrum: the Astronomical League, the Association of Lunar and Planetary Observers. And I sit here with tears in my eyes for a woman I never met...but wanted to.

My thoughts tonight go out to Aaron, Elizabeth, and the rest of the AAVSO staff, as well as Janet's husband, Mike. Every single conversation and email I've ever had with you folks is a testament to the high quality of the friend, teacher, mentor, boss, and woman the world has lost tonight.

Restu Pace Inter la Steloj, JAM.

Rest Peacefully Amongst the Stars. —Richard Kinne

What sad news! She was such a special person! We all can feel blessed that we have been touched by Janet. We each have our own wonderful memories of her presence in the astonomical world. May God bless Mike and her family. CLEAR SKIES Janet! We Love you! — Keith and Sylvia Danskin

I only met Janet once, at last year's Tucson conference, but I seem to have known her all my life. She was an inspiration to me through the years and I'm sure to the entire amateur community. What impressed me most was that she made me feel like a part of 'the family'. At our first meeting, she already knew everything about me. She cared about us all that way. It was always her business to know us well. Her kind smile and friendly words, and the excitement she had at meeting all of her friends and observers I will never forget. Such a loss! My estimates may be a bit poor for a while, since the stars will be seen through a few tears.

My sincere condolences to Mike and family and to the staff and friends at the AAVSO. —Richard Huziak

I would like to send my deepest sympathies and more sincere condolences to Janet's family and close friends. It was a priveledge and honor for me to communicate with her during ower twenty years and to meet her in Paris and, two years ago, in Bourbon-Lancy. She will be greatly missed. L'AAVSO et toute la communaute internationale, professionnels et amateurs, ont perdu une Grande Dame et, pour beuacoup, une amie sincere et devouee. Je suis effondre et profondement peine d'autant plus que les dernieres nouvelles permettaient de penser qu'elle etait sur le chemin du retour a la sante. Que le Ciel vous garde, Janet. —Emile Schweitzer, former president of the AFOEV Sorry, I could not continue in english.

Although I had never met Janet Mattei, I wish to express my deepest sympathies to her friends and family. —Richard Jepeal

Our beloved Janet is the epitome of a people person. I've never known anyone in her position who was admired, respected and loved all at the same time by so many people.

When we met her for the first time in Hyannis, both my wife and I were impressed with how personable, warm and genuine she was. After she got up from our table, Gene Hanson commented, "wow, she just took an hour to get to know a new observer. Do you know how special that is?"

Special, yes. Uncommon, by no means.

No matter how busy she was, and she was always very busy, she made a point of taking the time to meet and get to know everyone she possibly could at these meetings.

I always felt she honestly cared about the people in the AAVSO, as if they were family. After hiking around a lava field in Hawaii, the tour guide indicated it was time to go. Janet clapped her hands together and said , "alright everybody, time to go. Watch your step, be careful!" I was suddenly a ten year old on a field trip and the teacher had just told us to get back on the bus! It wouldn't surprise me one bit to find out that she knew everyone's name in that group, and was personally taking a head count before leaving anyone behind.

She was accessible, smart and charming. It is also well known that she was impossible to say no to because of this. Many members have joked on occasion about accruing "Mattei exclusion points" to get out of whatever it was she was going to ask of you next. But somehow no one ever really minded doing whatever it was she asked you to do. Personally, I always felt it was an honor to be asked, and letting her down was never an option. Her thanks, and she never forgot to say thank you, was always enough reward.

I last talked to Janet on Christmas day. It was the best present I got for Christmas this year, and I'm glad I was smart enough to tell her so. She had gotten wind of the fact that I was feeling overwhelmed with the weight of the chart team project, and called me at home to thank me for the job I was doing and to give me her support. She was in the hospital, in the fight of her life, and was calling me at home to see if I was alright!

That was Janet.

I'll always remember her as a five foot something ball of energy who wore maybe a size 5 sneaker. But whoever inherits the unenviable task of filling her shoes is going to feel like they have just slipped on a pair of 32 triple E's.

Our heartfelt condolences go out to Mike, her family, the staff at AAVSO and all those who knew and loved her. We will all miss her dearly. —Mike and Irene Simonsen

I was truly shocked and greatly saddened to hear this news while on travel, especially since it appeared she was on the road to recovery. I was looking forward to meeting her again at this Spring's meeting. I believe she was the most influential personality in bridging the wide gap between amateur and professional astronomers, and the world will be at a great loss without her. My sincere condolences to her entire family. —Mike Linnolt

I was greatly shocked and saddened by the news of the demise of Janet. The news came as a total surprise to me, as she seemed to be recovering very well. As I started VSOing in 1984, I've never known the AAVSO without Janet. Janet and the AAVSO were synonyms to me. I had the privelage to meet Janet in person once, but that was already a long time ago. She was attending a meeting of the Dutch variable star association at Leiden Observatory, June 27 1987.

The last few months the AAVSO functioned well in Janet's absence. I am very confident the AAVSO will continue to function well after the death of Janet. But things will not be the same at AAVSO-hq... My thoughts are with the Mike, the husband of Janet, Janet's family, the staff of AAVSO-hq and all her friends who knew her a lot better than I do. My condolences to you all. —Erwin van Ballegoij (Netherlands)

Shocking and so painful sad that she could not stay with us. Her enthusiasm, hard work, passion for the subject and much needed help will be always be cherished and deeply missed.

My deepest deepest condolences to her family, aavso members-staff and all the pro-amateur astronomers.

May God bless you always, Janet. —Umair Asim (Pakistan)

This morning I was greatly saddened by the news that our friend Janet Mattei has passed away on March 22. I was shocked to hear about this, also because we heard good news about her recovery. I first met Janet on an AAVSO-meeting in Cambridge Ma. in 1978. She also attended a meeting of the Dutch Variable Star Section in Leiden in the year 1987 and the AFOEV-meeting in Bourbon-Lancy in 2002. I will remember Janet as a good friend with a warm personality, always encouraging the observers of variable stars. I want to express my sympathy with Mike, her family and the staff of the AAVSO. Let us continue to observe the variable stars in memory of this wonderful woman Janet Akyuz Mattei! —Georg Comello (CMG) (The Netherlands)

My sincere condolonces at Janet' s family and all friends and colleagues. I hope that Janet continue to observe the Ciel and the Earth and with the help of God discover many misterys of the Universe. —Toni Scarmato (Italy)

I was one of the fortunate ones who met Janet (AAVSO Spring meeting in Huntsville, AL 2000 and again in Hawaii in 2002). She brought a warmth and love of people along with scientific integrity to what could easily be an impersonal hobby. She deserves all the respect shown her by all whose lives she's touched.

I can only echo the sentiments expressed by all those who've already written; she was a truly great lady and we're all a little poorer for her passing. My deepest sympathies to Mike and Janet's family, along with all those in the AAVSO HQ. May God be with you and grant you the comfort you need in this time. —David R Nance

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