The Passing Of Dr. Stuart Forster

It is with the utmost shock and sadness that we’ve learned of the sudden passing of Dr. Stu Forster. Stu was a long-time member, former president, current secretary, contributing author, scope builder, astrophotographer extraordinaire, host to several of the Messier Marathons that marked the beginning of the SAS observing year, multi-lecturer at past meetings and Summer Seminars, and a true amateur astronomer’s astronomer whose knowledge of observing and equipment was as expansive as the summertime Milky Way. All this while keeping up a steady practice and, most importantly, being a loving husband and father.

Stu Forster (left) at the 2010 NEAF Conference.

For those who have not had the pleasure of seeing Stu’s images in large form from the newsletters, the complete gallery of his works has been placed into a series of pages on the SAS website at

He was a technical guru to several members and non-members whose questions required address by a “higher authority,” a patient instructor who always had the answer and freely offered it, and a good friend to the past and present members of the board. For those with the good fortune to have known him, if you have a story or anecdote that is decidedly “Stu,” please consider sending it along as we collect our own thoughts to properly remember him and his important place in the history of the SAS.

His obituary is reproduced below from the website.

* Dr. Stuart H. Forster January 26, 2011 Dr. Stuart H. Forster, 55, of Syracuse, died unexpectedly on Wednesday, January 26, 2011. He did his undergraduate work at Queens College and then attended SUNY Upstate Medical Center where he also completed his residency in Urology. Stuart was a member of Congregation Beth Sholom-Chevra Shas and the Syracuse Astronomical Society. Dr. Forster was predeceased by his mother, Frances Forster, in 2002. Survived by his wife, Dr. Danielle Katz; son, Daniel Forster; daughter, Alexis Forster; father, Jack Forster, and his sister, Lynne Petigrow. Service will be conducted 11 a.m. on Sunday, January 30, 2011 at the Birnbaum Funeral Chapel, 1909 E. Fayette Street. Friends may visit with the family on Sunday from 10 to 11 a.m. prior to the service at the chapel. Burial will be in Congregation Beth-Sholom-Chevra Shas section of Oakwood Cemetery. Contributions may be made to Vera House, 6181 Thompson Rd., DeWitt, NY 13214 or the Syracuse Astronomical Society, c/o Ryan Goodson, 212 Grumbach Ave., Syracuse, NY 13203. Birnbaum Funeral Service, Inc.

Finally, for those recent members who might not have seen much of Stu at the observatory or the pleasure of meeting him in person, I am thankful to our treasurer Ryan Goodson for providing a small series of “observations” (because amateur astronomers do not engage in simple “remembrances”) that capture in words what the rest of us had the pleasure of discovering in person.

I have been up much of the night; typing-backspacing-typing, trying to come up with words that describe how much Stu has meant to me since I met him a few years ago.

Stu was one of the most generous people I have ever met. He was generous with his time, his knowledge, his possessions…everything. Just absolutely a generous man. His passion for astronomy was enough to inspire someone who has no interest in the subject. His passion for his family even greater.

I have never been one to talk on the telephone. My average phone conversation is around 45 seconds. I get the information I need in 30 of those seconds, and I spend the last 15 trying to come up with polite ways of getting off the phone. Not so when I would see Stu Forster’s name on the caller ID, or when I would find myself dialing his number. Phone conversations with Stu could go anywhere. But one thing is for sure- I always learned something, I always laughed, and I ALWAYS hung up feeling better than I did before the conversation. Had he not chosen to be a urologist, I could easily have seen Stu as anything from a college professor to a stand up comedian.

Stu was very proud of being frugal. Now keep in mind we are talking about an ultra-successful Urologist who could easily splurge when it came to buying name brand diet cola… but not Stu! He would always be quick to point out that he was able to save 65 cents on a 2 liter by purchasing brand X. He would explain how he, his wife and daughter could eat dinner at home for less than 5 dollars a night, and have a nutritious meal to boot! He would explain to me the importance of living frugally and saving money every opportunity I got. I sit here and wonder if he had any idea of how big of an impact conversations like this had on me. They were literally life changing.

Stu loved all things astronomy. Especially imaging and sharing his knowledge with others. I would often go by his house to borrow a couple of astronomy books at a time. I would read the books in a few days, go back to his house to return them, and learn more talking to Stu in his garage for 30 minutes than I had learned in the several hours it had taken to read the books! In fact, although the books were always great, it was the actual time spent borrowing and returning them that I enjoyed.

I think it was this extensive knowledge (and his passion for sharing it) that has given him a reputation among amateur astronomers that extends far outside of the state of New York. While I was walking the grounds of Stellafane in Vermont this past year (a place Stu has never visited, mind you) I got to talking to an amateur astronomer. He found out where I was from and asked if I knew Stu Forster. Several others joined in the conversation and they all seemed to know Stu. We talked a little about Stu and his many contributions to amateur astronomy, and I came to find out they had never even met him! They knew of him from a friend of a friend whom Stu had helped solve some imaging problems. And this is not the only time I have met complete strangers who have known Stu. It has happened on several occasions. I think we could change the game “Six degrees of Separation” from Kevin Bacon to Stu Forster, no problem. I would also add that all the people I have encountered that have a “Stu connection” used the word generous (and phrases like “photographic memory…highly intelligent…extremely energetic…” the admiring words go on and on).

Stu has been more to me than just a friend over these past few years. He has been a mentor and an inspiration. The way he doted on his family has made me want to be a better husband. His passion for amateur astronomy not only got me hooked on the hobby, but also interested in aspects of it I never thought I would be. The absolute energy he had for life, his generosity, his kindness, his humanity, his intelligence and wisdom…the world will be a duller place without him. I will miss him dearly.

Ryan Goodson