In Memoriam: Theodore H. N. (Ted) Wales

Ted Wales

It is with the deepest sadness that I inform you of the passing away of Theodore (Ted) Wales, the AAVSO Treasurer Emeritus and a long-time, devoted member of the AAVSO, on July 15, 2003.

Theodore H. N. Wales (1931-2003), of Westwood, Massachusetts, joined the AAVSO in 1975. In 1977, he was elected to the Council, and in 1979 he was elected as the Treasurer of the AAVSO and served in this position for 19 years, through 1998. He remained a member until his death this week.

Ted became interested in astronomy at an early age. While he was in high school he visited Harvard College Observatory and was inspired by the astronomers there. When he joined the AAVSO in 1975, his membership application was endorsed by Dorrit Hoffleit, then the Director of Maria Mitchell Observatory in Nantucket, Massachusetts, where Ted and his family vacationed. On his application, Ted indicated he had several telescopes ranging from 8-inch Celestron to 3-inch refractor, and he made 210 observations (observer initials WTH) from 1975 through 1986.

Ted gave generously of his time and wisdom to the AAVSO, and he always had the best interest of the AAVSO at heart. A banker by profession, whenever there was a need in the Association, Ted always lent a hand, whether as Treasurer or Councilor, volunteer to work with data files, or worker alongside the staff to paint and stain library shelves (built by members Ed Halbach and Roy Lee) when we acquired our new Headquarters building in 1986.

Ted was also a very generous contributor to the AAVSO through annual donations, many special gifts, and matching grants over the years.

Ted was very much liked by the AAVSO staff - not only did he care so much about the AAVSO and work so hard for it, but with his dry New England sense of humor, omnipresent bowtie and battered, "ancient" leather briefcase, interesting and entertaining conversation over lunch, and fundamental goodness as a person, he always brightened Headquarters with his visits.

Personally, Ted was always there when I needed to ask for advice or a second opinion; he was very frugal but always open to good ideas if they were sound. I admired him greatly and always valued his advice with gratitude.

Ted was truly a financial genius. He always guided us the best possible way financially; it is thanks to his financial expertise that the Association's funds are as healthy and well managed as they are. Ted was also a calm voice of reason and restraint. He had been the AAVSO Treasurer through difficult times early in the 1980s as well as exciting times when Clint Ford bought our Headquarters for us. Before he retired as Treasurer, Ted invested a great amount of his time in making the financial operations easier and more structured using a stand-alone Headquarters computer, leaving AAVSO with much more flexibility in finding a successor than we would otherwise have had.

In the AAVSO Council, his opinions and views were very much respected. On the occasion of Ted's retirement Lee Anne Willson - then the first Vice-President - wrote, "In physics classes we teach our students that a stable equilibrium can be produced by strong but opposing forces, particularly if a small departure from equilibrium induces a compensating force. I think this may describe well Ted's role in keeping AAVSO on a steady track in the face of enthusiastic councilors and officers always eager to do something that will, incidentally, deplete the treasury. We could always persuade him, if the cause was good, but it required us to have a well-thought-through plan and reason for the expense."

For those who had the good fortune of getting to know him, Ted was a fascinating person with many interests, including astronomy, nature, flying, and sailing, to name just a few. He always had interesting stories to tell, whether about the Lowell (of Percival Lowell) or Clark (of Alvin Clark) families, who were distant relatives of his, the Great Hurricane of 1938 he lived through as a child, wartime experiences, animal adventures (he had an interesting assortment of pets), or about something that would unexpectedly reveal an entirely new side of Ted. At one AAVSO meeting, while chatting with Lois Berg - Ray Berg's wife - they found out that they were both direct descendants of Abiah Folger Franklin, Benjamin Franklin's mother.

In 1991 Ted received the 33rd AAVSO Merit Award "in recognition of his loyalty and devotion to the Association, his untiring support in financial management and advice in over twelve years of service as AAVSO Treasurer, and his many other contributions to the Association as a member of the Council and a volunteer at Headquarters." Those qualities and contributions that we acknowledged then, we acknowledge again now.

There will be a Memorial Service for Ted at his home on Tuesday, July 22nd. We will also have webpage in memorium to Ted. To those who wish to send notes for the family and/or the webpage, we very much invite you to do so, and to send them to AAVSO Headquarters or e-mail them to: The wish of his family is that, in lieu of flowers, a contribution be made to AAVSO in memory of Ted.

The AAVSO will be hard pressed to find a better friend and more devoted member. Ted will be deeply missed.

— Janet A. Mattei


The following are passages from the book, "The Little Prince". They were read by Ted Wales Jr. at his father's memorial service:

"At night, you'll look up at the stars. It's too small, where I live, for me to show you where my star is. It's better that way. My star will be one of the stars, for you. So you'll like looking at all of them. They'll all be your friends."

"People have stars, but they aren't the same. For travelers, the stars are guides. For other people, they're nothing but tiny lights. And for still others, for scholars, they're problems. For my businessman, they were gold. But all those stars are silent stars. You, though, you'll have stars like nobody else."

"When you look up at the sky at night, since I'll be living on one of them, since I'll be laughing on one of them, for you it'll be as if all the stars are laughing. You'll have stars that can laugh!"

The following messages were received in remembrance of Ted:

We have all lost a friend, and AAVSO has lost one of its most loyal and devoted members. Over the many years that Ted and I were both involved with AAVSO Council, it was clear that he was one of the steersmen that kept the AAVSO steadily on track. The Council would, as councils do, come up with many ways to spend the AAVSO's money. Ted would quietly and with good humor bring us back to reality, but never so rigidly that we couldn't go ahead with what was really important. He served a very long time in one of the most important, most laborious (and often thankless) jobs in any organization - a good treasurer is worth his weight in gold. We will miss him! — Lee Anne Willson

Theodore H. N. Wales ("Ted") was a long-time good friend of mine. We shared the Episcopal faith. He was an active communicant at St. Michael's Church, Milton, MA. He was a person of warmth and caring. Time spent talking with him was memorable; he was so gracious.

The AAVSO suffers a deep loss with Ted's passing. But how fortunate we were to have had him in our midst. —The Rev. Dr. Jeremy H. Knowles

".. The AAVSO will be hard pressed to find a better friend and devoted member. Ted always had the best interest of the AAVSO at heart." — Dan Kaiser

".. How very sad to loose such an outstanding member of the AAVSO family." — Bill Dillon

We are so sorry to hear of Ted's passing and hope that it was a peaceful one. We are in Sydney, Australia attending the IAU meeting at the moment and will not be able to attend the memorial service for Ted on Tuesday. Thus we have to take this less desirable method of expressing our sorrow as well as regrets for not being present at that important moment.

I joined the AAVSO council at about the same time that Ted did, and we became good friends very quickly. Newton Mayall was the AAVSO Treasurer at the time and had refused to change the rather awkward way that he reported financial accounts to the council. However, when Ted was elected Treasurer he implemented my suggestions immediately. From then on, it was a pleasure to deal with him both in the council and at other points in our meetings, as we were both confident we understood each other.

Ted's wise and capable handling of AAVSO finances through a very difficult period in the 1980's was, of course, essential to the organization's survival in the long term. I admired his resilience in the face of many efforts that I, and others, mounted to pressure him into producing more income so we could take on additional projects. Ted was steady as a rock in the face of such suggestions, yielding a bit from time to time but always with his eye on the long term. He was a great resource in the council for that reason.

Even more important was Ted's stoic sense of humour. He had an uncanny sense of timing and was so frequently able to defuse tense situations with a casual jest or remark on the humorous side of a situation. Ted was very important to the healthy process in the council. And his asides after the meeting about the not-so-fatal craziness that entered into our discussions from time to time were equally refreshing. What a wonderful sense of humour and balance Ted had, he was a treasure as well as a great Treasurer.

So it is no wonder that many of us who have served on the AAVSO council will morn the passing of yet another key figure from the AAVSO's recent history. I know the AAVSO was but one aspect of Ted's life and there will be many others whom he touched in other areas who will feel similar regrets and sorrow at his passing. We will be among the many who will remember Ted Wales with greatest fondness as well as respect for his life of service to many.

With deepest sympathy and love, Tom and Anna Fay Williams

I am really going to miss Ted, his sense of humor, his wisdom, and his terrific stories. The years that I worked at the AAVSO, 1991 - 1995, Ted and Marilyn and I would gather at the receptions prior to the meeting banquets and conspire to hold a table so that we could sit together. There we were at these lovely and elegant dinners, whispering and giggling at our table throughout the night. We had a wonderful time acting like kids. I'll never forget those evenings nor will I ever forget Ted.

Aloha.Tanja Foulds

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