I received the sad news today that one of my officemates in graduate school, Con Beausang, passed away the other day.
Con was an experimental nuclear physicist and held the Robert E. and Lena F. Loving Chair at the University of Richmond. Unfortunately I hadn't kept in touch with him after graduate school, but I have warm and cherished memories of him from our time at Stony Brook. He was unique, that's for sure.
I never, ever saw Con in anything other than a very cheerful mood. He would come into the office each morning to drop off his coat, before going down to Stony Brook's accelerator to work for the day. He'd breeze in with something like "Top of the morning to you, gents! What a fine, lovely day it is," regardless of what the weather actually was. He'd say something about his car, which he named and talked about like another person in his life, but closer than most. Sometimes he'd say something about us theorists (Con was in a research group that worked on the detailed structure of nuclei, while the other three us in the office did theory, which, as he observed, mostly involved just sitting around). Being Irish, he pronounced the word "three" as "tree." He taught me about Brian Boru and the Battle of Clontarf, and surprisingly, that phrase still rolls melodically right off my tongue. Once he and I were going somewhere and were on a sandy, dirt road and something in his engine caught fire; Con stopped and had me help him throw sand on it to put it out, then he got back in the car like nothing had happened. He always served a small scoop of ice cream the few times I went to his place for dinner. He was exceedingly easy to be around.
The administrative assistant at the University of Richmond's physics department told me they have been getting more and more graduate students in recent years, and she thought Con had a big part in that, "taking care of everyone."
I have more information about his death, but don't feel it's appropriate to share it in a public forum. Write me if you knew him and would like to know more. I also have his home address, if you want to send anything in memorial, to his wife Cindy.
I am very happy to have known Con; there was no one else like him. It almost seems like yesterday. How very sad that he is gone, and far, far too early.