Community members interested in the total solar eclipse on Aug. 21 learned about astronomers from St. Joseph during a “History Speaks” session Saturday at the Downtown public library.
The featured speaker was Suzanne Lehr, the historian at Mount Mora Cemetery, who said that several children of a world-renowned astronomer, Richard Anthony Proctor, were laid to rest at the burial ground.
Proctor traveled the world to promote astronomy as a serious science, and his daughter Mary Olivia Proctor followed in her father’s footsteps by writing children’s books related to astronomy such as “Stories in Starland,” and the “Young Folks Book of the Heavens.”
“Mary Olivia was invited to go to Norway with American friends to see her first total eclipse,” Lehr said. “She went and was so in awe that it changed her life. She saw several other eclipses that we know of. One I thought was really fascinating was one she saw in an airplane at 6,000 feet and she said that was truly awesome.”
Mount Mora is hosting a special “Voices of the Past” eclipse event on Sunday, Aug. 20, from noon to 4 p.m., where Lehr said people will be able to interact with living history characters like Mary Olivia and Richard Anthony Proctor.
Lehr plans on being at the event just in case participants want to learn more about the cemetery when they’re not chatting with the characters.
“We have pony riders, architects, inventors, writers, musicians, people who were famous in those fields,” Lehr said. “We have a lot of war veterans. I don’t think of the fact that they’re no longer here I think of their stories and what they contributed to our community.”
In July, Mount Mora starts selling tickets for their popular October event, which Lehr said sells out every year.
“This year, our theme is rich man, poor man, beggar man, thief. Doctor, lawyer, merchant, chief,” she said.
Lehr also answered general questions about the upcoming eclipse during Saturday’s presentation and recommended that people don’t take pictures during the total phase but instead use every second to observe the sun’s corona and feel the temperature drop and the wind pick up.
“The moon’s shadow will be traveling at twice the speed of sound,” Lehr said. “If they’re trying to fiddle with their own personal camera or cell phone they will really miss the experience. And there will be so many professional photographs available later if they want one to hand down to grandchildren and say ‘I was there. I saw this.’”
For more information about upcoming events at Mount Mora call Lehr at 816-387-3799 or visit www.mountmora.org.