For the Madera Tribune
Kelly Beatty stands with a group of mostly amateur astronomers in front of a telescope at Cerro Tolo Inter-American Observatory after spending 10 days with the group recently.
It has been a long time since Kelly Beatty, senior editor at Sky & Telescope Magazine, walked out to his backyard on Road 24 in Madera to view the night sky.
As a young boy, he would take his little telescope out on his dad’s peach ranch, look up and wonder what was happening up there.
“You have to imagine being able to walk outside at night, look up and see the total canopy of stars,” Beatty said. “It makes you think big thoughts.”
Although Beatty, 65, has lived in Massachusetts for 43 years, he still thinks of Madera as home base.
“It’s where my roots are. It’s where I’m grounded in,” Beatty said. “It’s where I was raised and got my values.”
Beatty lived in Madera until he left for college at the California Institute of Technology. Beatty said although he understands multiple levels in astronomy, his specialty is planetary science.
“My job, as a science writer, is to read the scientific paper, understand what’s going on, and then turn around and spit it out for public consumption,” Beatty said.
Tom DaSilva, owner of Lee DaSilva Observatory in Madera, first subscribed to the magazine when he was a little kid. He said Beatty writes wonderful articles.
“He’s really a worthwhile guy to read,” DaSilva said. “He’s, by far, my favorite author in that magazine.”
Sky & Telescope is not just a science magazine. Beatty said it is associated with all things astronomy, even organizing stargazing tours in different countries.
“I think my biggest accomplishment is that I ended up doing, as a career, what I dreamed of doing when I was young,” Beatty said. “I have been doing this for 43 years. I still enjoy every minute of it.”
While he had an interest in astronomy, he needed people to support and encourage him along the way, Beatty said. He especially values the support of his sixth grade teacher at Howard Elementary School, Ronald Rockholt Sr.
“He went out of his way to help me,” Beatty said. “He was sort of instrumental on making sure I got a kick start in the direction that I wanted to go.”
Rockholt, 88, arranged for telephone interviews with scientists at NASA and put them on speaker phone in the classroom.
“He did a lot of stuff for his students,” DaSilva said. “He did amazing things that you don’t find nowadays.”
During a speech at Fresno State University nearly 20 years ago, Beatty called Rockholt onstage to share that an asteroid was named after the teacher who inspired him.
“It is a marvelous privilege, very humbling,” Rockholt said of having an asteroid named after him. “That was more than anything I was honored for as a professional teacher.”
Rockholt said that with the credential that came from the International Astronomical Union, Beatty wrote a personal note saying, “Mr. Rockholt you’ve given me enough inspiration to last a lifetime.”
Beatty said Rockholt influenced a lot of people. “I respect him so much.”
Beatty said Madera was a great community to grow up in and believes that’s still the case. He comes to visit Madera about once a year.
“Driving through the valley is always very nostalgic to me,” Beatty said. “It’s kind of hard wired in me. There’s some things you just don’t forget.”
Megan Trindad is a student in Gary Rice’s community journalism class at California State University, Fresno.