Portion of tributes during dedication of the Pirko Memorial Sundial in September, 2010. Video by Bruce Palmer.
In Memoriam: Richard Pirko
Richard Pirko, Planetarium Technician at the Ward Beecher Planetarium, passed away quietly the morning of October 15, 2008, the result of an attack of cardiac arrhythmia the week before.
The following was written by his good friend, Dr. Ray Beiersdorfer:
As a passionate educator, Rick spent the past three decades providing science outreach as the producer/technician for Youngstown State University's Ward Beecher Planetarium. In addition to his public and school programs, he supervised and mentored numerous college students, providing them with one of the most important educational experiences of their lives.
As an accomplished photographer, Rick's aerial photographs of the Serpent Mound Archeological Site have been published by the Ohio Historical Society and displayed at The British Museum in London.
As a licensed pilot and co-owner of an aircraft Rick provided hundreds of children between the ages of 8 and 17 their first flight as a local organizer of the Experimental Aircraft Association's (EAA) Young Eagles program.
As a dedicated volunteer, Rick was a Merit badge counselor for the Astronomy and Aviation Merit Badges for the Boy Scouts of America.
As supporter of the arts, peace, social justice and the environment, Rick provided photographic and technical assistance to the YSU Department of Theater and Dance, The Oakland Center for the Arts, The Ohio Supermaximum Players, The Valley Coalition for Peace and Justice, and The YSU Recycling Center. He was a co-creator of Dr. Ray's Amazing Sideshow of Science which merged the worlds of sideshow and science as a fun way to teach critical thinking and skepticism. His worldview was free of supernatural and mystical elements. He and his wife, Victoria, grew organic vegetables and raised and trained dressage show horses on their 65-acre farm in Trumbull County, OH, which Rick enjoyed pointing out was also the birthplace of Clarence Darrow.
In addition to his wife, he is survived by his mother and four brothers.
A sundial has been constructed in his memory, located outside the main doors to the Planetarium. See the story from YSU's eUpdate.