Ted Pedas 1939-2021
SANIBEL ISLAND, Fla. — Ted Pedas, 82, astronomy educator, entrepreneur and philanthropist, passed away suddenly of cardiac arrest, Thursday, March 11, 2021, at his winter residence on Sanibel Island.
Although a lifelong resident of Farrell, Pa., he traveled the seven continents, visiting more than 200 planetariums and observatories, as well as scores of destinations of interest to astronomers, archaeologists, anthropologists, historians and naturalists.
His parents Steve Pedas (Tsimpidis) and Angeline (Havas) predeceased him.
The 1957 launch of Sputnik by the Soviets, the first satellite to orbit the earth, was a pivotal event in Ted’s life. He switched his university major from business to astronomy, earning degrees in science education and planetarium science from Youngstown State University, Michigan State University and University of California at Berkeley (1969).
Ted took seriously the education and mentoring of students. He championed science education at YSU’s Ward Beecher Planetarium, 1964 to 1994, and in Youngstown, Ohio’s, public school system, launching teacher workshops designed to change the curriculum from “rote memorization” to “discovery.” He was designated Planetarium Administrator Emeritus, Youngstown State University in 1993.
As a founding member of the International Planetarium Society, 1968, he was recognized as an innovator in the fields of planetarium operations and education. He was elected fellow of the International Planetarium Society in 1996.
His many honors include the U.S. Department of State’s Agency for International Development Award for “exemplary service in education,” 1977, and twice was nominated as a finalist for Pennsylvania Educator of the Year (1979, 1981).
The Ted Pedas Planetarium in his hometown, Farrell, Pa., is named in honor of his contributions and benevolence to the Farrell Area School District and community. His brother, George, as the planetarium’s technical director, was the mastermind behind the operation overseeing upgrades and presentations in the full dome facility. In addition to the planetarium Ted funded the creation of the Farrell Area School District Foundation and the Farrell Alumni Hall of Fame.
His hands-on science programs at YSU and Farrell High School included model rocket clubs, in which young enthusiasts designed, constructed and launched lightweight rockets in size from a few inches to 6 feet. Astronomy merit badges were awarded to more than 2,000 Boy Scouts who attended planetarium and star-gazing sessions. Programs were designed to supplement areas of study that highlighted the importance of star navigation such as how escaped slaves, on the Underground Railroad, used the stars to find their way to freedom.
One of Ted’s most rewarding moments was receiving mail from former pupils who proudly reported their skill navigating the night sky while serving in the military during the first Gulf War.
In 1983, Ted Pedas was selected by NASA to write and co-produce with Tim Kuzniar (his former student), a planetarium show, “All Systems Go,” documenting America’s first quarter century in space, in honor of NASA’s 25th anniversary.
Ted was a featured news writer on astronomy, space science and travel in regional papers. His weekly “Cosmos” column in the Vindicator, 1964 to 1999, increased public attendance at the Youngstown and Farrell planetariums. Ted chartered buses for students to join him at Kennedy Space Center, where as a news correspondent, he reported on five of the Apollo and Skylab space mission launches.
An advocate for calendar reform, he accepted Sen. Everett Dirksen’s invitation to testify before committees of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate to pass the Uniform Holiday Act of 1968. As a result, beginning in 1971, Congress moved four federal holidays to Mondays to create three-day holiday weekends.
Ted’s first attempt to organize a group of astronomy enthusiasts was less than successful. Approaching the town fathers of Eclipse, Va., with an idea for an outdoor celebration to view the March 7, 1970, solar eclipse, he was taken for a rock festival promoter and quickly escorted out of town (http://pedasfamily.com/history.html).
Ted Pedas is acknowledged as a pioneer in the specialty field of oceangoing science travel programs. To avoid the risk of being clouded-out, as was frequent during land based eclipse observations, Ted, with his sister, Marcy, former brother-in-law, Phil S. Sigler, and then-wife, Evelyn, organized the first “Voyage to Darkness” solar eclipse cruise that successfully rendezvoused with eclipse totality, July 10, 1972, in the North Atlantic off the coast of Nova Scotia aboard the Olympia. The Greek Line was rewarded with a full ship (850 passengers) and Pedas’ reputation as the sea-going astronomer was launched.
The following year, 850 “Voyage to Darkness” eclipse devotees aboard Cunard’s ship, Adventurer, and 2,600 aboard P&O’s ship, Canberra, successfully intercepted the June 30, 1973, eclipse at sea. New York Times science writer Walter Sullivan referred to the Canberra’s deck as resembling “Tripod National Forest” because of the proliferation of stands for cameras and telescopes.
Isaac Asimov, a lecturer aboard the 1973 “Voyage to Darkness,” described the eclipse cruise in his biography, “In Joy Still Felt,” “Never did so many people have so steadily good a time without any of the activities usually associated with a cruise. They were being educated and loving it!”
The Pedas-Sigler shipboard “Science at Sea” programs were taught by noteworthy authors and scientists, planetarium directors, astronauts, science fiction writers, astronomers, astrophotographers, oceanographers, meteorologists and Librarians of Congress. The Culture at Sea program, devised by Phil S. Sigler and New Jersey music educator, Tom Pedas, utilized passenger talent to present onboard choral and theater productions.
Passengers were not the typical cruise fun in the sun crowd. In addition to many young astronomy enthusiasts they included several Nobel prize winners, philanthropists, business executives, educators, photographers and retired folks.
“Older people haven’t retired their minds,” Pedas said. “They want to learn more about the solar system and the universe.”
Ted’s many successful “discovery” voyages included those to view the equinox at Chichen Itza, Mexico; the Perseid meteor shower from the Mediterranean; solar eclipses from around the globe; and the return of Halley’s Comet (1986) that enabled older passengers, who had witnessed the comet’s passage in 1910, to share the experience with their grandchildren.
Ted credits much of the success of the Pedas-Sigler ventures (1972 to 2004) to contributions made by his techie brother, George, who served as solar eclipse photography specialist; his former wife and cruise collaborator, Evelyn Zurawsky Pedas Delph; friends and assistants, that include Betty Clark, Janet Shaffer and Donna McGrath.
Ted’s daily passion was watching “Jeopardy” and navigating his bike on his hometown streets and at Sanibel. His encyclopedic memory contributed to riveting conversations relating to the arts, history, culture and world events. He was a humble, gentle, non-judgmental, old-fashioned fellow who did not own an iPhone or computer, but enjoyed clipping articles which he shared with others.
Ted is survived by his sister, Marcy Pedas Sigler; brothers, Tom and George; his sister-in-law, Kathy; nieces, Christina (husband Kevin Lynch) and Stephanie; his devoted companion of many years, Donna McGrath; and many loving cousins and relatives.
Ted’s siblings grieve the loss of their beloved older brother and best friend, whose daily supportive presence steered them through life, beginning in childhood when Ted skillfully negotiated issues that arose with their parents, who held firm to Greek traditions. When younger brother Tom showed an interest in music, Ted purchased an accordion and trumpet, thus overriding objections from their father (a former shepherd from Arcadia, Greece) who viewed musicians as unemployable, impoverished souls. He lived to witness Tom’s success as a music educator and beamed with pride when attending Buhl Playhouse musical productions, conducted by Tom, who served as musical director in 1970 and 1971.
Ted’s love of family, relatives, friends, colleagues and life was boundless. His love of education left a mark on all who came into his orbit. He remains an enduring inspiration to those whose lives he touched.
Ted selected the quote, “Knowledge is the sweet sensation we acquire from education” to appear with his photo in the 1956 Farrell High School graduating class yearbook.
In Ted’s memory, please share a poem or a song with the children in your life. Point them to the stars and begin the countdown to witness a spectacular celestial event — a total eclipse of the sun, scheduled for April 8, 2024, that will be viewable, on a narrow path, across 13 U.S. states.
Funeral arrangements are private.
Arrangements entrusted to J. Bradley McGonigle Funeral Home and Crematory, Inc., 1090 E. State St., Sharon. Online condolences may be sent to the family at www.McGonigleFuneralHomeandCrematory.com.