Timothy Paul Conrow, 58, of Pasadena, California, passed away on Saturday, July 1 in Los Angeles. Tim’s love of the natural world and his eagerness to explore and share his experience of it inspired everyone who knew him. He turned his childhood fascination with science and technology into a lifelong pursuit of knowledge.
Tim grew up in Temple City, CA, and attended Temple City High School, where he played clarinet in the marching band and orchestra. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Cal State L.A. in 1982. While still a senior in college Tim began working as an engineer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. There he helped launch the ground-breaking Infrared Astronomical Satellite or IRAS, the first infrared space telescope to survey the entire night sky.
Tim enjoyed working on small satellite missions for JPL and Caltech for the rest of his career, in the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center, IPAC, at Caltech. He recently received his 35-year service award from Caltech. In the course of his career Tim contributed to more than two dozen scientific papers, advancing knowledge of galaxies and the space between them.
In 2008 NASA awarded him an Exceptional Public Service Medal for his innovative work building a data analysis ground system for GALEX, a galaxy-observing space telescope.
At the time of his retirement, Tim was working on the NEOWISE project detecting and archiving near-Earth asteroids and comets. One asteroid discovered through the WISE mission is named “Timconrow 251 625” and can be found circling the sun in the main asteroid belt.
Apart from the pleasure and pride Tim took in contributing to the exploration of space, he also took great delight in the people he worked with, and they returned his affection. Even after his retirement, when his health severely limited his mobility, his colleagues from IRAS and other projects visited him at home and held weekly group dinners. He looked forward to and enjoyed these events greatly.
Tim was an avid photographer who left behind thousands of stunning images of nature and his travels, as well as of his friends, family, and beloved dogs. His pictures create a documentary of trips throughout North America, Europe and Africa as well the local mountains. He was a chronicler of family holidays and events spanning the decades. In fact, he was more often seen behind a camera than in front of one.
Tim is survived by his partner Cynthia Kiser, his parents Tom and Mary Conrow, two brothers, Tom and John, and two sisters, Terry Toczynski and Marty Rodighiero.
If you would like to make a charitable donation in Tim's name, please contact the Nature Conservancy at nature.org; Los Angeles County Arboretum at arboretum.org ; or the California State Park Association at calparks.org.
It was my pleasure to have known him and worked with him on WISE and NEOWISE. He was always the go-to person for any of the big problems we ran into with the WISE data, and he will be missed.
My thoughts are with you and your family. As we say in Judaism, may his memory always be a blessing. I know I will cherish my memories of him.
.... (W)hen he visited me in Washington, DC in June, 2004 for the Transit of Venus, (h)e had brought a neat pair of image stabilizing binoculars and solar filters that we rigged up with cardboard. Then we were out at dawn to watch the transit.
I worked with Tim for many years on GALEX. I am so sad to hear about his passing. Tim was simply a stellar human being, and I was blessed to have known him.
Tim had a heart of gold. With this small gift [Nature Conservancy, nature.org], I honor his love of nature and his wish to protect those wonderful fragile creatures in his lovely photographs
Tim has been a part of IPAC for almost as long as I can remember. His hard work, knowledge, skills and cheerfulness are embedded in each of the hundreds of millions of objects discovered by IRAS, 2MASS and WISE and in the millions of images he helped to create.
We will miss him greatly.
Tim had been to my home in Monrovia several times to play board games with my family, friends and co-workers. Our dog Gabby was always happy to see Tim as he petted her more than anyone else in the family. She would often bark when he was leaving.
We are so sad to hear about Tim. He was such a wonderful person and fun friend.
I have been working at IPAC for almost 15 years, but I got to know Tim only during the last 2.5 years, when I was working on the WFIRST project with him. I think we developed a mutual respect for each other and I really enjoyed working with him, as he was very responsive always and also said or wrote what was on his mind and did not try to go about it in some indirect way. I really appreciated his honesty.
....I was glad that I had a chance to have dinner with him one last time on May 24 at his home. I had a feeling then that it was probably the last time I was going to see him, and I was very thankful for that opportunity.
I have literally known him my entire life - having shared a birthdate with him, albeit I came a year later. Our mothers were best of friends, and Tim and I always joked about them having "PLANS" for the two of us, WE decided that we preferred being just friends. Our lives are definitely the poorer with his passing, yet very much the richer for have known him. Our lives are definitely the poorer with his passing, yet very much the richer for having known him.
I send all my love to Mary & Bud and the family.
I first met Tim when I was in graduate school and always enjoyed his thoughtful, well-reasoned perspectives. His views and ideas helped shape my thoughts on topics that ranged from how to handle situations at work to political and social issues. He was a good friend and I will miss him greatly.
Tim was such a great guy. A GALEX favorite of many who will be missed. I worked with him for many years at Caltech and he was without fail cheerful and hard working. He could also write a very long program in one line of code. Tim was kindhearted and rescued my neighbor’s dog when she couldn’t take care of him anymore. Tim died much too young, but many of us will continue to be influenced by his example.
I've known Tim for 35 years, since he first started working on the IRAS project at JPL. Although he was still an undergraduate at the time, I was immediately impressed by his quickness and versatility. In the decades of working together since that time, that impression was only reinforced again and again. I was amazed that he could have a deep understanding over such a wide range of disciplines.
Tim was at the center of making the WISE all sky catalog work, just as he is in the center of this picture [See Tim's gallery] taken at IPAC on the 7th anniversary of the WISE launch. He was a good person.
We are so sorry to hear of his passing and so grateful we had the chance to meet him at Service Awards. I wanted to pass along the photos of him with the President to you, so that his friends and family could share in remembering this celebratory moment. We were grateful for the opportunity to appreciate his contributions to the Institute and are thinking of you and your colleagues as you commemorate his life and mourn his passing.
I have not seen Tim for more years than I care to think about; we were friends from his says of singing in the Lightshine Choir at St. Luke's in Temple City. I became Facebook friends with him several years ago, but that never led to actually meeting up with him, though he lived close to where I teach. The greatest memory I have of him is going to see the original "Star Wars" with him back in 1977, and the awe both of us felt at George Lucas' imagination and vision. To think he had a career at JPL and Caltech that followed that experience - wow.
I am so sorry to hear of his passing. I'm glad I have that memory. May the Force be with him.
George Getze and I were in the same circle of friends with Tim in high school. I remember lunches with a group with Tim and others. Later, Diane (Wiker) Craig shared an apartment with me. We had a Halloween party in 1984 and Tim kept changing costumes. He was a Blues Brother, then a Samari and finally a Killer Bee. He was always a lot of fun to be around.. George and I saw Tim at a High School Reunion a few years ago. He led a very adventurous life.
Having known Tim for many years it was very saddening to hear of his passing. He was a very likable person and I found his humor to be something unique. I first met Tim when IRAS processing was at JPL around 1982. He was briefly assigned to my group before we reorganized the section and subsequently transferred the processing to Caltech when IPAC was formed.
I met Tim 21 years ago at a technical interchange meeting (aka TIM) at NASA Goddard when we started working on the WIRE mission. We worked closely for the next 3 years and shared with each other the disappointment in the outcome of the mission, but he kept telling me that we would get a second chance. And that is just what happened with WISE, a resounding success. The last couple of times I was in the Pasadena area, I made it a point to sneak into IPAC, headed straight for Tim’s office and even ended up having dinner together. He will be greatly missed.
Only Tim thought to construct an elegant dance based on molecular orbitals. He felt fortunate to inhabit a world where many idea streams are able to come together. His first application of a web camera was to peer into the secret life of the dog at home. I don't know if he realized it revealed they shared the qualities of far greater depth than most will ever see, plus subtle quiet playfulness and amusement that only occasionally ripple the surface. We schemed over several lunches just how to game our homes for pets. He had many good insights into the world as seen by animals. Tim respected the inner intellect of crows. Using rocks to raise drinking water is just what they show the public to make us go away. They are scheming world domination and we could only waste their time. Tim's next subject of remote camera monitoring ? Ethics of home deliveries. Honorable people and those cutting corners looked the same on camera one, but the second view -- farther in from the street, seeing what no person was thought to see (and using a less obvious camera) -- separated those who could probably be trusted, from those who definitely shouldn't even be trusted with packages. Tim had a measured sense I appreciated for the retaliatory karma which ought to catch up with those who have it coming -- for their ill deeds -- while knowing how rarely it actually does.
We built software tools which occasionally interacted; Tim was a concise and quality-conscious craftsman of code, in a world where those dimensions seem ever-less available. When he got a FLIR camera for his phone, we discussed how to prevent the next arrival from reading a keypad -- using the heat left by touching buttons -- without being so obvious that the person realized they were being fooled; we settled on gently warming numbers in pseudo-random order, making it easy to know when a possible intruder had watched in the infrared rather than knowing the code or just pushing buttons at random. Figuring out how to make a clear separation of good from bad made for many small successes.
Tim chewed on curious thoughts until incorporating all angles; he was almost always ready with an insightful opinion on just about any subject. I will miss his fine articulate delineation of ideas and his sense of humor -- usually concise and timely, often wry, and sometimes crisp in the face of stupidity.
Tim sat at Lagrange points among the orbits of many common friends. We met in 1989; I was in grad school; he was down the street at IPAC during the day, but kept turning up evenings and weekends in interesting places, and through people I knew only in different solar systems. We overlapped most for hikes, games, occasional country dance, and when I was invited to join their dinner group. Sharing time at IPAC was an unexpected bonus. I was especially fortunate for the past few years to have had an office only steps from Tim. Laura and I got to see the brief almost-covert reverse parade, following the Rose Bowl floats away from display in the middle of the night, thanks to Tim's insider location, generosity keeping watch, and texting at 2 AM on the right day. Claude brought us together again with board games and science fiction. We knew and lost Kathleen Spellman over the period we've known each other. We both came to appreciate a special sanity and cleverness in Claire Slutter's sense of humor. I am very thankful to you, Cynthia, for making it possible to say goodbye while Tim could still sit up and face the world with dignity, despite the scale of medical siege he shouldered with enormous understatement. With the loss of Arthur Vaughan, and learning how many of us got to see different facets across years over lunch, I am particularly grateful for the shared memories of others here, which broaden my knowledge of Tim, who remains with all of us from generously sharing his mind and thoughts. I will miss him in more ways than we might polysyllabically enumerate over lunch if we were trying to box in nebulous ideas with sharp hospital corners.
I’ve known Tim for a long time, but only really worked closely with him in the past couple of years on the WFIRST project at IPAC. Tim was a perfectionist, always pushing to get things exactly right, double and triple-checking everything before he would let it go out the door. That is exactly the kind of person you need on any big project. Even in the last year when his health was failing, he tried so hard to stay in the loop, and help get the work done, often apologizing for not being able to do more. I will never forget that. I know he will be missed greatly at IPAC.
I am truly inspired by what I have learned about Tim’s life and accomplishments.
I wish I had known him better.
I am Tim’s coworker at IPAC and would like to come to pay my respect to Tim. He is such a nice person in addition to his capabilities. I will miss him dearly!
My name is Amy Mainzer, and I've had the amazing privilege to know Tim as a friend, coworker, and neighbor. I'm a scientist at JPL who works with Tim's group at IPAC. But also, Tim lived near my house, and he would often happen by while walking Buzz. We had many fun conversations that ranged from California native plants and wildflowers to computers to Star Trek. He was kind, quick to laugh, and easy to be around. One of my happiest memories with Tim is when we received the first images back from the NEOWISE spacecraft shortly after it was restarted after a long hibernation – we all gathered around Tim's computer screen to look at the stars and realized that everything was working just fine. As you'll see in the photo from December 2013, it was kind of like "astronomer Christmas" with Tim delivering the gifts. As usual, Tim thought nothing of putting in long hours to get the spacecraft's data processing pipeline up and running smoothly but made it look effortless. Here is the link to Tim's asteroid, which is named 251625 Timconrow. You can access it by typing 'Timconrow' into the search box: https://ssd.jpl.nasa.gov/sbdb.cgi#top His asteroid circles the Sun once every 4.5 years, and it is about 4 kilometers across. It is likely one of the more ancient types of asteroids in the solar system, since it has a dark surface that is consistent with a carbonaceous composition. Tim enabled our project WISE to discover more than 34,000 new asteroids and comets in our solar system in less than a year, and to help us understand how many asteroids there are that get close to Earth. He gave so generously of his time, and he helped me with many, many convoluted technical problems. Without his dedication, patience, and brilliance, the mission would not have been a success. A gem of a person.
Many memories of Tim since we first met in 1982 when he started working on IRAS with us. Memories of hiking with Tim, lunches with Tim, backpacking in Grand Canyon and the Sierras with Tim, sailing with Tim, Joshua Tree with Tim, working with Tim. A sharp and problem solving mind, an insightful mind, an interesting and helpful friend. I had the good fortune to enjoy his wit and friendship over many years.