Who's Who at OPT - Our Wonderful Staff

The OPT family has grown over the years, a lot! From a handful of stalwart employees to a small army of smart and capable of over 30 members.  A lot of them are part of the inner workings of the company, and rarely see the light of day showroom floor. Others are the helpful faces you see in our store everyday, some familiar and new.  Each of them is as important to making OPT as great as it is, so we'd like to take the time to introduce you to the people who make OPT tick.  We asked each of our employees to write a little something about themselves.  Enjoy!

Craig Weatherwax - Owner a.k.a. The Bossman

Older than dirt - aged 66, experiencing his 7th decade.

At OPT since the beginning of time (1974).

Equipment owned: I own OPT, so technically everything in the showroom is mine... now using it is another story.

" I've been interested in astronomy ever since I first heard the beep‐beep of the Russian satellite, Sputnik, while sitting in my kitchen in Norfolk, Virginia in 1957!  I love the juxtaposition between time and distance. You can ask how far away something is or how long ago it was... I like sharing the hobby and seeing the look of bewilderment and awe on the faces of people the first time they see Saturn in a telescope! After doing this for almost 40 years, I still love getting up in the morning and coming to work, alright you busted me....I rarely if ever get in to work before noon, but I usually leave around midnight! Anyway, I am addicted to OPT! A lot of that is because of the incredible team I have been lucky enough to assemble to help me run the company. I am constantly amazed at the wealth of knowledge these guys and gals possess! Not only are they brilliant, but they are fun to be around, and when you are older than dirt having fun is important! It keeps you young!"

 

Eric Blackhurst - General Manager

"I've been into astronomy since before I could read."

Aged 35. Married with one little naturalist.

Has been at OPT 11 years straight, but started back in 1996.

Equipment owned:  Officina VRH200, Celestron C11, ASA DDM85XL, Bisque MX, QSI583, Apogee U9, Astrodon filters, FLI Atlas Focuser, and lots of little stuff.

"Seeing the unseen, knowing the unknown, and exploring the universe from my backyard... astronomy is often one of the most relaxing hobbies I've ever encountered, and is a great way to force myself to slow down, set aside a few hours of an otherwise busy week, and enjoy the fainter aspects of existence. It’s a great escape!  I consider myself lucky to have been born into the end (but still active portion) of the “space race” NASA was set upon in the 1960’s. Few things have made such an impact in my life as the National Geographic coverage of the Voyager missions, and from my first moments of page‐turning I was hooked. Yes, Star Wars was awesome, and the old Star Trek reruns we’re fun, but NASA space exploration was real! While my early childhood dreams of being an astronaut dwindled before 10 years of age, my interest in astronomy, cosmology and physics grew through adolescence. It was not until in my early 20’s that I owned my first telescope, and that was the first of many. Funny how things work out..."


Mark Thompson - Management Consultant

A very young 64, in the midst of his 3rd mid-life crisis.

Blissfully married to Elizabeth for over 40 years with two grown (well sort of) children.

Has been at OPT off and on for 9 years but in his most recent position for one.

Equipment owned: Takahashi Mewlon 250 and NJP Mount, FLI CCD cameras, several small refractors, A Baader Mark V binoviewer, and a 25th Anniversary Questar, plus a bunch of eyepieces.

How did he get interested in astronomy?  "Carl Sagan and his famous COSMOS television program got me hooked in 1980 while we lived in Palm Springs, California where the night skies were clear and dark. Astronomy is both a relaxing solitary, philosophical pursuit as well as a wonderful hobby to share with others. I enjoy introducing people to the night skies and never grow tired of seeing children (and adults) react to their first view of the moon or Saturn through a good quality telescope from OPT. After being forced by the city council to remove an observatory dome from my roof (that was previously approved), I began channeling Galileo and doing a one‐man musical comedy show as the famous astronomer, culminating in a multi‐city tour of the United States during the International Year of Astronomy in 2009."

The Sales Staff

Mike West - Sales Floor Manager

Age, 59. "Same as Oprah!" Married 27 years with two lovely daughters.

Has been at OPT 29 years, on two separate occasions.

Equipment owned: "I have an Odyssey 8" Dob and a few different pairs of binoculars."

I've been interested in astronomy "Since being a sophomore in high school. A buddy and I built a 4.25" reflector from an Edmund Scientific kit. We even had to buld the eyepieces. It was the first time I saw Saturn through a scope. I enjoy the peace and quiet when out under the stars. I'm a husband, proud father and drummer in my free time."

Chris Hendren - Telescope Sales & Imaging/ Observatory Consultant

Age, 31.  Not married, yet.  My girlfriend loves stargazing and encourages my astrophotography habit.  She’s a keeper!  My younger brother Steven also works in OPT Internet Sales.

Has been at OPT for 7 years.

Equipment Owned: Pentax 125 SDP Apo, ASA DDM60 Pro mount, Apogee U16000, Optec IFW filter wheel and TCF-S focuser, Astrodon filters, Takahashi FC-65, SBIG ST-I, Takahashi EM-10 USD-III mount, Canon 5D Mk II, lots of Canon lenses, AstoSky 12” Dobsonian, an observatory with my astronomy club out in the desert, plus little odds and ends.

"My mom says I asked a librarian for books on stars when I was 4 years old and then got mad at her when she led me to the biography section of the library.  My first telescope followed soon afterward. Astronomy to me is a way to get in touch with nature and the universe.  It is an extension of the natural world we see when we escape the orange glow and distractions of our cities and head out into the wilderness – even if just a little ways.  I hike, camp, and travel often in order to see wonders of nature I cannot see in my city or around my home, and I look through an eyepiece or capture light through my camera in order to see other distant wonders out among the wilderness of the stars. While I maintained an interest in science and astronomy through my teen years, it wasn’t until I took a class in Astronomy in college that I really got back into observational astronomy.  It was actually my first trip to OPT back in 2003 to buy a small accessory for a 70mm telescope I owned then that opened my eyes to the possibilities available to amateur astronomers with the advent of mainstream digital technology.  Within a year, I had bought a digital SLR camera and a larger 6” computerized equatorial scope and I was quickly hooked!  I still have some of my first images from that time to remind me of how amazed I was at how much color and detail I could now see that was invisible to the human eye.  The beauty of the night sky still amazes me, and I look forward to many more decades of stargazing and photography ahead as I continue to explore its hidden treasures."

Roderick Gallardy - Bilingual (Spanish/ English) Sales & Tech. Support

Aged, 30 years young. " My father is from Peru & my mother is from Mexico."

Has been at OPT 3 and half years.

Equipment Owned: Celestron 8" SCT, Meade 16", Pentax 75mm refractor, Canon T2I, Celestron Advanced VX Mount. 19 years in the hobby.

"The vast distances of space is probably one of the things that strikes me most. It really humbles me to know how small I am in a large, vast universe that is filled with so many possibilities. I first got interested in astronomy when I was 10 years old in my science class. I therefore have Mrs. Fromis to thank for this. She would have us go home and identify the constellations as our homework assignments. One night while driving home from the desert with my family, I looked up at Orion under the dark skies and never came back down. From that day, I was hooked. 3 years later, my dad bought me my first telescope and I have been a backyard astronomer since. The best hobby anyone can have in my opinion!"

Larry Weatherly - Telescope Sales

"My Name is Larry, and I look forward to helping you!"

Age, 55. Married (35+ years); 3 sons and 1 daughter.

Has been working at OPT for 2 years, a customer for 19.

Equipment owned:  "Started out 19 years with a small refractor from A major sporting goods chain. Upgraded to a Meade ETX-90. And Oh! What fun!  Since then- Meade Lx-10, 10" Meade Lx-50, 12" Meade Lx-200, Celestron Nexstar 8, Celestron Nexstar 5, Discovery 17.5 Dobsonian, Discovery 8" Newtonian, Discovery 12" Dobsonian,  SkyWatcher 12" Dobsonian, Meade Lx-90, Celestron C-8, Astro-Tech 8" Imaging Newtonian, TMB 90mm Refractor, Stellarvue 70mmRefractor. And Most up to Date- Televue 60mm, Televue TV85, Televue NP-101, usually on a Losmandy G11 Gemini-2.  And a Few Cameras along the way- Olympus OM-1 (Remember those?), Nikon 990, Canon 20d, Canon 50d, Canon 60d, Atik 683l, QSI 583wsg, QSI 683 wsg-8."

"I enjoy watching the "gears" start to turn the first time someone sees Jupiter or Saturn through a telescope; the Awe in their eyes, the questions that start to formulate as they try to comprehend what they are seeing and the respective related distances. Warning- Astrophotography is one of the most exciting, interesting, engrossing and yes, "addictive" hobbies you could ever hope to enjoy. With the technology available, almost anyone can enjoy the excitement and pleasure of sharing Celestial photos with friends and family. And Yes, I am one of the addicted ones!  Hey World! I am very interesting and quite personable! (please omit!)  Born in California. Have always been an outdoors kind of guy. Even when I am not looking through a telescope I am found outdoors at night just enjoying the cool air and surroundings. Spent most of my adult life working hard in "Specialty Construction", raising four children and "attempting" to keep my wife of 35 years 'Happy"(probably should give up on that). Now that the "kids" are gone I have a bit more time to divulge myself in "selfish" pursuits (astronomy, music, etc...). I am thoroughly enjoying the "journey" here at OPT. WE have a great group of guys and girls that are a pleasure to work with. I am even blessed with having Theresa (wife) working here with me. We are 4 minutes from the store and it is a real pleasure to be to work in a few minutes and not have to worry about the Southern California Traffic."

Jordan Muñoz - Camera Sales

Age, 27. "Happily married to my wonderful wife, Erica Sue and we have two furballs, Hunter and Sabastian. 

Has been at OPT 1 month and avid photographer for 8 years. 

Equipment owned: "The cameras I like to use are a Mamiya RB67 and a Canon 6D."

"I love photography!!! I'm also currently training for a half marathon."

The Internet Sales Department

Jason Farmer - Internet Sales Manager

Age, 39. Wife, 2 daughters, one son, 4 cats and 1 dog.

Has been at OPT since February 2008.

Equipment Owned: "I do not own a great deal of equipment; what I do have is a 76mm refractor and some eyepieces but at the store, I have access to a variety of equipment. At events such as Julian Starfest, I had the opportunity to use some of the larger scopes and on Friday's I regularly look through the solar scopes we have set up in our parking lot."

"Learning about the universe and being in regular contact with our customers who are more than happy to share their findings. It is very relaxing and often sparks stimulating conversations that take on a philosophical tone; I enjoy debate and engaging conversations about astronomy and what is out there, it is a big universe! I was born in England but immigrated to the United States in 2003. I trained and worked as a chef in my early 20's so I have a great love of good food in both preparation and consumption! I am an avid science fiction and fantasy reader and writer [nothing published, just for my own amusement]. I like a wide variety of music, from Mozart to Machine Head."

 

Theresa Weatherly - Internet Sales Order Processing

Age, 54 years.  Happily married to Larry Weatherly for 36 years. Raised 4 children and have 6 fine grandchildren, all whom they love very much.

Has been at OPT since January 2012.

Equipment Owned: "I have a Nikon 5100 that I like to use in the taking of pictures.  As to Astronomy equipment, I do not personnally have any. But I have been an encouragement, companion and helper to my husband in the use of various Telescopes and equipment over the years.  To name a few, we have had a Meade LX200, Celestron C8, Discovery Dob, ShyWatcher Dob, and most recently a Televue NP101 with a Losmandy Gemini mount and a QSI 683WSG-8."

"I like to take pictures of family, friends, places and anything I find of interest,  My interest in astronomy is through my husband’s interest in astronomy for the last 12 or more years.  I have learned quite a bit over the years as an aquaintance in the hobby.  I have found that the universe and what we're learning about it, is endless."

Steven Hendren - Internet Sales Order Processing

Age, 28 years. "Single. Also, my bro, Chris, works at OPT as well and he's kinda smart, I guess."

Has been at OPT "Less than a year so far, but it's been a pretty good less-than-a-year-so-far."

Equipment owned: "None of my own, but I'm sure I can always borrow some stuff from my bro in a pinch. ;)"

" I have an interest in astronomy and science that has grown naturally out of my early childhood interest in science fiction. I find it fascinating that the realities of the universe have proven to be far more strange and interesting than what people ever imagined on their own. I appreciate how astronomy can bring clarity and insight into aspects of our universe that we as humans would otherwise take for granted. Careful observation of the night sky has done much to clarify our relative place in the universe, but has not yet extinguished our sense of wonder and desire to know more. I'm a lifelong musician and have played a variety of musical instruments over the years, including guitar, piano, and synthesizer. My current major musical endeavor is a project in which I write chiptune music (utilizing old video game hardware such as NES, Game Boy, and Commodore 64 as synthesizers to write original songs) called The Syntax Sin Tax. It's all kinds of retro goodness. Also, I play keytar at live gigs, so instant nerd status there."

The Accounting Department

Leigh Weatherwax - Office Boss

"I always know what to wear to the (star) party, and, what’s more, I probably planned it!"

Age: "Really?  Who asks a lady her age?".  Family: Mostly Craig and Rex (the office dog).

Has been at OPT for 13 years, plus another 16 as the boss' wife.

Equipment Owned: "What's Craig's is mine!"

"Ever since I first went to the Planetarium at the Cincinnati Natural History Museum with my parents, long ago and far away.  Space is big and it’s gorgeous and it’s fascinating, and the best part is, it’s infinite.  There will be something to look at and things to discover forever and ever and ever and ever…"

 Diana Fickas - Accounting Assistant

Age, 55 and still alive!

Family:  "Yes.  Do you need all 3K people in my family tree that my dad as found in his extensive genealogy research?  Or, 1 husband, and 2 daughters, one of which works at OPT, too!  Or, a descendant of the last man hanged as a witch in Salem, because he changed his plea to “not guilty.”  Sep 22, 1692."

Has been at OPT for over 3 years. 

Equipment Owned: Celestron SE6, 3 pairs of binoculars, and a little 18” refractor telescope (toy) that I got when I subscribed to Psychology Today in 1977. Computers – websites abound with information and live views through other people’s telescopes.

"Since I first looked up at the moon with my dad, the rocket scientist.  He designed rockets for all the early space stuff, and some of the stuff that went on the gold panels for the Vikings.  I got to go to the engineer’s broadcast to hear the Voyager II launch. Space, real and imagined science fiction, I love it all.  Yes.  I am a huge Trek fan from the first broadcast of the very first pilot.  In college I may have been a music major, but I spend my spare time learning all kinds of space associated science stuff, looking at the stars, and learning how mythology connects to the constellations in many different cultures.  The Hubble photos fascinate me, and I can’t wait to see the ALMA photos when the full array is completed.  I love spacey stuff, playing in a band, beading/crafting, history, Bavarian castles, and taking pictures while wandering around in the woods.  I’m always the last person on a hike."

Melina Fickas - Accounting & Admin. Head Minion

Aged, 23. Single mother to two kittens.

Has been at OPT for about a year and a half.

Equipment owned: "My 20/20 vision."

"My mom has always been interested in astronomy and has done her best to get me and my sister interested as well since we were young: I'm an amateur stargazer. I have a definite appreciation of the cosmos and enjoy looking at the awesome photos my coworkers share with me. I work Part-time for OPT and it is the best day of the week. I'm so grateful to work with this amazing group of people; they teach me so much! I live life to the sound of  my own soundtrack and enjoy every minute of it."

Sheila (Varga) Szabo - Accounting Assistant, Cheerleader.

Age: "Going on 22 years as a 20 year old."  Two teenage girls and a son in middle school.

Has been at OPT just over one year.

Equipment Owned: "KitchenAid, chaffing dish, crock pot... oh are we talking about astronomy? I like to cook before I head out to look at the stars. A Canon Rebel EOS is on my wishlist."

"For every answer you find, there's always a new question. Whatever you do, don't ask me what I think about life beyond our solar system or where Hungarians originate from. Currently work part-time for a wonderful company, part-time Wonder Woman, freelance writer specializing in relationship advice, soon-to-be student attending Mira Costa College. Formerly a Cougar (mascot from Hawthorne High School), Miss Hawthorne Pageant Runner-Up, ghetto girl, restaurant reviewer, love addict, over-acheiver. I measure success not by one's achievements, but by the emotional footprints you leave behind."

The Shipping Department

Clark Roosendaal - OPT's Shipping & Receiving Manager

"I like craft beer, fast cars and faster women."

Age, 35 with 2 daughters

Has been with OPT since April 2004

"Knowing how much is out there helps me realize just how obsolete I really am."

 

Nathan Stephens - Shipping & Receiving Clerk

"I’m hands down the coolest guy here at OPT!"

Age, 30. Married with 3 sons.

Has been with OPT for just over 4 years.

Equipment Owned: Nikon D90, and a bag full of different lenses to go with the camera as well as other toys like a tripod and time lapse cable.

"I am not really as into astronomy as I am photography. I’ve been shooting pictures since I was 15.  Being born and raised in a “city” environment, it is truly eye-opening to get out to an area without light pollution and get to see just how many stars there really are out there. It can help put life in perspective."

 

Bruce Lomardo - Shipping & Receiving Clerk

Age, 26.  Girlfriend Stephanie works in the web department.

Has been at OPT for 4 years.

Equipment Owned:  I own a Canon Rebel and various lenses.

"I am not into astronomy but I have been interested in photography ever since High School. There are endless ways to capture the same subject. On my free time I enjoy going fishing and watching sports."

 

The Web Department

Rayna Stephens - Web Administration Wizard (Manager)

Age, 30. Married and mom to three crazy little boys.

Has been at OPT her entire life. Seriously her entire life!  Officially on the job for 14 years but she probably polished enough display glass cases in her toddler years to be put on the payroll.

"I've had the priveledge of being around astronomy from a very, very young age.  I spent a lot of time at local dark sky spots and was able to spend time at local observatories as well.   While photography is my hobby of choice, the time I spent out under the stars in the local desert gave me a true appreciation for the hobby, the wonder and beauty of the night sky.  The monthly star parties at Little Blair Valley with the old OPTAS crew are firmly cemented in my mind as some of the best weekends of my life and my kids will be subjected to the same regimen of camping under the stars.  Outside of work I'm a craft junkie (occassionally finishing a project or two), and when time permits I'm a book nerd and movie buff."

Jason Brucks - Web Administrator

Age, 32.

Has been with OPT for 3 and half years.

Equipment Owned: Just a pair of trusty binoculars. No telescope yet.

"Ever since I started watching “The Universe” on the History Channel a few years before I started working for OPT. My interest was furthered by viewing the Hubble Deep Field and Ultra Deep Field images. Knowing that even the tiniest specks in that image are entire galaxies, hundreds of thousands of light years across is mind boggling. Aside from the gorgeous photographs of the cosmos one can take with the right equipment, I also love how this hobby allows us to ponder some of the ultimate questions of our existence. Are we alone? Are there other universes? How will the universe end? I have a very curious mind and enjoy learning new things. I also love watching sports (football and baseball) and listening to rock music."

 

Stephanie Aceves - Web Administrator

Age, 26.  Boyfriend Bruce works at OPT as well.

Has been at OPT almost one year. 

Equipment Owned: None, but hopefully soon.

"I am fairly new in the Astronomy community. Joining the OPT team has introduced me to astronomy and so far I do like it. I think astronomy would be an enjoyable and interesting hobby to have, there’s always something different to observe! I enjoy Graphic Design, painting, and spending time with family."