Goodbye to a friend: It is with great sorrow that we report the passing of ICSTARS owner, Vic Winter

Some men are cut of a different cloth. Vic Winter was born of dirty denim with holes and patches. But under that coat of many colors lay a heart that was just too big, too generous and too rich to hold out long enough. Not in a body meant to hike a volcano with a 40lb camera bag; or thriving in rearrangement of 500 cubic feet of garden soil with his bare hands. No, his gentle heart would gladly trade his very livelihood for ‘the kids’.

To Vic, ‘the kids’ could never have enough. His baby girl would ask for the moon and he would reach out his hand and grunt a little, trying to grab it down for h er. “I can’t reach it.” He would say. But the next time she would ask, he would reach again. He would always reach again if someone merely asked. A dear friend’s dying wish was to put a 22” telescope at altitude for the children of Bolivia, so he reached. He reached so far that he indeed grabbed it. But he didn’t stop reaching. A 24” for the kids in rural Missouri waits for light if all they do is ask. Each stretch was a little further. 5000 Tuareg children in the Sahara had eclipse glasses and school supplies for their local schools. 2000 inner city kids learned about the Sun one day because an eclipse was coming. Thousands of hours, thousands of kids and he continued to reach.

And he never ran out of energy. It’s as if Vic was the first photovoltaic human being. He was powered by light. Light through the eyepiece observing the Sun. Light through binoculars peeking at the moon. Light through the camera, capturing that magic moment of children at play. It was this intense energy source which gave him his incredible gift that separates an average photographer from a great one, seeing just a split-second into the future to catch that elusive ‘money shot’. “Vic always got the shot”… they say. That is except the time the film bounced off his dash and plunked into his coffee cup. Nobody said greatness was tidy. That’s good because Vic could be really great sometimes. So great that in the mid-90’s his best friend coined the term, “Vic-ified” to describe the offenses against humanity that would befall his equipment.

Oh, Vic. What have you done? Was it a prizewinning shot to run in Newsweek this time? Or a camera lens so full of sand it could no longer focus. Knowing Vic, it was both. Somehow he walked a tightrope; a chaotic network of narrow lines leading him from exploit to excess; through greatness and confusion. I don’t think he understood how he wove his intricate tapestry of serendipitous connections which built an empire of respect; and enough observatories to have his handiwork cited in a Lonely Planet travel guide. We must note the adoration of peers who have come to salute this soul. We certainly had no idea how Vic did what he did. Perhaps he just spontaneously followed that great big heart of his. That heart not meant to live in a hulk with hands that typed 70 words a minute using only 3 fingers and a thumb, too big to mung the teensy cell phone buttons.

Was this the reason we lost him so soon? The reason doesn’t really matter much when he’s gone. What matters is that he is gone too soon. And it is the reason we are all blessed and truly honored to have known a man this genuine, this gifted, Herculean and fragile… who would give us his very heart if he could.


When the paper delivery truck arrived at the newspaper’s loading dock at 3am, you woke from your apartment next door and went down and helped unload it.

You can rest now, Vic.

When the sheriff in Oklahoma awoke you to photograph a tragic crime scene for him, you were out the door in 2 minutes flat.

When the Northwest Airlines baggage drop desk was closed, you schlepped 250 lbs of equipment across the Miami airport in 6 minutes to make the connection.

You can rest now Vic

When you hiked the steep side of a dead volcano in the Galapagos Islands with young Shadow strapped to your back, nagging “Up! Up!” You pressed on faster.

When the meteor shower continued ‘till dawn, you poured another cup of coffee and yanked up your collar, and stayed ‘till dawn to run the film to the newspaper to develop and run.

When you overnighted as a child at a boyhood friend’s house, you sleepwalked across town and awoke in your own bed.

You can rest now, Vic.

When your sister-in-law moved out of and into her 3rd - third floor apartment, you didn’t flinch; but moved the 30 boxes of books one more another time.

When Michelle’s 4x4 got stuck in the desert sand with its battery dead for the 6th time, you eagerly dug the sand clear and pushed with the guides to un-stick it again.

When the concrete was drying in the 103° heat and all your helper passed out, you knelt down in it and pushed with your hands because it had to be done.

When you returned from Sacramento with the new big photo printer, you drove 28 hours strait through to Kansas City alone.

You can rest now, Vic.

When you came off a night shift and onto a day shift with 3 hours of sleep, you smacked the alarm, drank a cup and hit the floor running.

When your luggage was lost on its way to Bolivia and you had no coat, or equipment, you stayed up late, huddled up on the patio and filled an entire observer’s journal.

When the ship in Aruba docked 3 blocks from the observing site, you marched the distance on foot, one equipment trunk in each hand.

When hanging your Christmas lights on the bough of your cabin and the ladder slipped, you hung there struggling with one arm to hold on.

You can rest now, Vic.

When you climbed the building in downtown Manhattan to get the shot of the fire across the street, a sudden backdraft blew you 10 feet back off your feet.

When the ladder didn’t quite reach the yard light you were installing a shield on, at 15 feet in the air, you jumped it up in mid-air and yanked the ladder up a notch higher.

When the ice-tractor dropped your group at the wrong coordinates in Antarctica, you plowed your way over 100 yards of barren ice enough to overheat.

When the sharecropper, Gene, would arrive in the late afternoon or 8am sharp to put up the hay, you dropped what you were doing to go throw bails with him.

You can rest now, Vic.

The digging, the lifting, the building… pushing and dragging and hefting… the endurance and effort and passion… hammering and climbing and decorating … Helping and contributing, showing up and hanging in there… You did all of this every day of your life for other people. Don’t think for a moment that we didn’t care. You gave us your all, and you certainly deserve it.

....go rest now, Vic.

At his request, a portion of Vic's remains are to be launched into space.  The family will post details of his scheduled flight as details become available.