Albert Heppe

Albert Heppe never grew tired of looking up at the night sky and

traveling the world with his wife, Phyllis, in search of open

pastures that offered clear views of the stars.

Heppe, who in some ways brought the wonders of astronomy

to Sonoma Valley, died March 5 in his Glen Ellen home, with his

wife and daughter Barbara of Napa at his side. He had suffered

a stroke earlier this year. He was 83.

Heppe, who was the acting president of the Valley of the Moon

Astronomical Society, was instrumental in the creation of the

Robert Ferguson Observatory, a facility in the hills near Kenwood,

inside Sugar Loaf Ridge State Park.

Nate Miron, a friend and astronomy “disciple” of Heppe’s, said

the former high school and college educator successfully brought

together various groups and state officials to get the observatory

built. “He was sort of the hub of the astronomical community in

the valley,” Miron said.

Born in Oakland, Heppe was a World War II veteran, serving in

Burma, where he helped set up radio communications systems.

After the war, Heppe earned a master’s degree in physics.

He taught chemistry and physics at Sonoma Valley High School

in the 1950s. In the 1960s and 1970s, Heppe was an astronomy

professor and also assistant dean of instruction at the College of

Marin in Kentfield.

“He loved to teach,” said Phyllis Heppe, his wife of 28 years.

“The kids loved him. He was a very witty, fun guy.”

She said her husband had the chance to work for an oil company

after graduating from college, “but he turned it down. He didn’t

care about the money. All he cared about was his love of


The Valley of the Moon Astronomical Society would meet once

a month at Heppe’s house, where they talked about the stars,

built telescopes and ground mirrors.

“He wasn’t an everyday person,” Phyllis Heppe said. “He was

very intelligent. He loved life. He love traveling, meeting

different people, and people loved talking to him.”

Memorial donations may be made to the Hospice of Marin,

Valley of the Moon Team, 190 W. Napa St., Sonoma 95467.

—Martin Espinoza

[from Sonoma Skies, April 2005]