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SIRTF Profiles: Paul Charles Morledge (1969-2003)

SIRTF Media Relations Specialist

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Paul Morledge, age 34, died unexpectedly on Saturday, May 24, in Ventura, California, where he was visiting with family and friends. Death was due to previously undetected cardiomyopathy (heart enlargement) with fatal cardiac arrhythmia. There had been no apparent prior symptoms. Paul was a vigorously active young man enjoying the challenges of life.

Paul was born on February 10, 1969 in Madison, Wisconsin - the youngest of six children. He graduated with high academic honors from Madison Memorial High School, where he played varsity football, receiving honorable Big Eight mention as a defensive end in his senior year, 1986-87.

Paul graduated with honors from the University of Colorado, Boulder, where he earned election to Phi Beta Kappa, and his B.A. degree in Biologic Psychology, with extensive course work in physics, chemistry, and biology, in 1992. He served as a graduate assistant in brain-memory research at the University of Colorado, publishing in neuroscience journals, and subsequently working in Boston at The Massachusetts General Hospital in cardiovascular surgery.

He returned to Madison in 1995, obtaining a Masters Degree in Science Journalism from the University of Wisconsin Department of Journalism in 1998. He received a Readers Digest National Award for Excellence in Graduate Student Journalism in 1997 and 1998, and an award in the Science Journalism Honors Program at the 1997 Association of Science Writers annual meeting in Washington, DC. He also completed an oral history project with senior UW faculty members for the University of Wisconsin archives.

While obtaining his UW Master's Degree, Paul also served as a volunteer tutor in math and science to disadvantaged students at Madison's Cherokee Middle School.

After a brief tenure as a science and math teacher in a prepatory school in Austin, Texas, Paul joined the writing staff of Encyclopedia Britannica in Chicago, where he served as Britannica.Com's online science editor for the Science and Technology Channel in 1999-2000. He also contributed to an online interpretation of "The Comedian / Color Commentator's Famously Arcane References" for the viewing audience of ABC's Monday Night Football, which became an immensely popular website.

In 2000 Paul moved to Milwaukee, joining the staff of the Milwaukee-published Astronomy Magazine, where he served as a writer and then an Associate Editor, forming a circle of close friends and associates during his time in Milwaukee, which also permitted frequent visits to friends and family in Madison.

In 2002 he considered a position with the National Science Foundation in Washington, DC, but instead chose to join the Caltech Jet Propulsion Laboratory program in Pasadena, California. There he served as a Science Writer and Media Relations Specialist, working with the forthcoming launch of the Space Infrared Telescope Facility. He relished the opportunity to participate in the JPL-Caltech SIRTF Science Center, where he valued working under the direction of Media and News officials Veronica McGregor, Jane Platt, and Frank O'Donnell. His Pasadena work permitted him to spend more weekend time with his mother and with his brother Jim in the Santa Barbara-Ventura area.

Paul was a big, gregarious, jovial and outgoing young man, with an infectious enthusiasm for life and a widespread circle of friends in Madison, Milwaukee, Chicago, New York, Washington, San Francisco and southern California - too numerous to list, but priceless all, to Paul and to our family, as well.

From boyhood, Paul loved active sports, with roughhouse games with his brothers - basketball and football and skiing. He admired his sisters, and treasured the time he spent with them. On a high school student trip to Europe, he organized an impromptu basketball game on the deck of a Russian cruise ship - Madison high school kids versus Soviet sailors - who won?

He always enjoyed the warmth and support of his family, and loved his big brothers and sisters, who cherished him. He and his mother shared many precious times together, and he and his father had many happy times skiing, sailing on Lake Mendota, and at Sturgeon Bay. He loved to converse about life and future plans. His time at JPL, with close friends and colleagues, has been wonderful for him.

The loss of a young person in life's prime years is a deep sadness - particularly to family and friends. How we will miss the big grin and laughter and bear hugs from one with such a big heart, and such accomplishment and unfolding promise. You will be with us all, forever, Paul.

Paul is survived by his mother, Rosemary Kirk Peters (the Rev. Dr. George Peters) of Santa Barbara, California, and by his father, John Morledge M.D. (Jeanne Burgess Morledge) of Madison, Wisconsin, together with sisters Ann Morledge Dodge (Jeffrey Dodge) of Middleton, Wisconsin, and Beth Morledge Webb (David Webb Ph.D) of Madison, as well as brothers, The Rev Kirk Morledge (Faith Zabit Morledge) of Middleton, Scott Morledge (Kris Comstock Morledge) of Austin, Texas, and Jim Morledge of Ventura, California - and by step-sisters Christine Henderson Hoppe M.D. (Patrick Hoppe) of Denver, Colorado; Jenny Henderson, Middleton, and step-brother Michael Henderson, Madison.

Paul is also survived by cousins Susan Morledge Watters (Ben Watters) of Verona, Wisconsin, and David Morledge M.D. (Alison Morledge) of Austin, Texas; Clarke Morledge (Lisa) of Williamsburg, Virginia; The Rev Mary Anne Stauffer-Collins of Morgantown, West Virginia, Rick Stauffer of Vining, Minnesota, David Stauffer of San Leandro, California; Julie Kirk Ahrensperger of Atlanta,Georgia, Susan Kirk of Mt Dora, Florida, Ann Kirk Richenbach of Pinellas Park, Florida, Steve Kirk of Carlsbad, California, Jane Kirk Fisher, Bonnie Kirk Dougherty, and Jim Kirk, all of Wooster, Ohio; and Mary Beth Lamb of Talent, Oregon. And thirteen nieces and nephews who were all great favorites of Paul.

Other surviving family members include Aunts and Uncles Sara and Jim Kirk of Mt Dora, Florida, Dick Kirk of Wooster, Ohio, and Anne and Alan Morledge of Williamsburg, Virginia.

A particular loss has been felt by Paul's very special friend, Sari Goodfriend, of New York, New York. A long-time family friend, Tony Lonsdale, of Ventura, California has also been deeply saddened by Paul's passing.

A service will be held at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, June 7th, at First Presbyterian Church, Highway Q, Waunakee, Wisconsin, preceded by visitation with the family from 9:00-10:00a.m. at the Church. Internment will be at Forest Hill Cemetery, Madison, following the service.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be sent - with Paul's long-term interest in kids and science and astronomy in mind - to:

The Paul Morledge Memorial Fund
Challenger Center for Space Science Education
1250 North Pitt St.
Alexandria, VA 22314.

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