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Goodbye Titus and Henny

Submitter: Jan Noordam
Description: Last week we marked the retirement of Titus Spoelstra, after 33 years at ASTRON. Of course the festivities included his partner Henny Lem, who retired from ASTRON a few years ago.

Titus has manifested himself in many guises. He has been the head of the old WSRT data reduction group, and he has also been the system manager of the good old VAX computer. That was in the days when everyone shared a single "big" computer (<100 MHz, 300kb memory, 100Mb disks), which also did all WSRT reduction, and the financial administration. System management was done on monday, for as long as it took, while the users impatiently paced the corridors outside, thinking uncharitable thoughts.

His main research was in polarization studies with the Dwingeloo and Westerbork telescopes, and on the effect of the ionosphere on the observations. He is one of the few to get a fullsome reference in the radio interferometry "bible", Thompson, Moran and Swenson. Over the years, he developed a huge network of collaborators, which seemed to include most of the eastern Europeans, and all of the Chinese.

But his greatest contribution was as our representative in the various international bodies that regulate the use of the radio spectrum. In that capacity, he has been our shield against the depradations of nefarious commercial ventures that always threaten radio astronomy. His earlier training with the "mannenbroeders" of the theological academy in Kampen greatly helped.

Titus has been "sukkeling" with his health for a long time. He and Henny bear this with remarkable fortitude and humour. But is a big change from the days when he did not flinch from bicycling all over the Netherlands, in all kinds of weather, on a rigid gentleman's bike without gears. Once he even pedalled to Munich for a spectrum management meeting, followed by Henny in an aeroplane.

The picture shows them both at the goodbye ceremonies at ASTRON, which were unusual for two reasons. Firstly, the various ionosphere researchers and spectrum managers turned out be be a jolly bunch, who give cheerful speeches. And secondly, one of his lovely daughters treated us to an evocative piano recital, which had everyone staring at the autumn leaves (until the bar was opened). Our best wishes go with them both.
Copyright: Ham Jan Stiepel
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