Since my earliest memories of laying in the grass on a warm summer nights. Looking up at the night sky and seeing the full moon shining down on me. Lighting up the desert in a cool blue hue, familiar daytime sights transformed by the cast of the heavens above. I was hooked! I would never stop looking up again. 

Growing up in Sedona my younger brother and I had some of our fondest memories sitting outside looking up at the night sky. The innumerous expanse of the Milky Way stretching out above us, countless stars and just as many possibilities of what might lay beyond on a distant world, was someone looking up at us?

The biggest influence on us around astronomy was without a doubt our Grandfather. He had a passion for astronomy and delighted in teaching anyone who had an interest. Some of our favorite visits were evening when my Grandfather would have his telescopes out. He'd often invite the neighborhood kids over to take a look at the moon or Saturn and its' rings. The expression on their faces when they stepped up to the eyepiece and their universe suddenly opened up to them for the first time brought our Grandfather such joy. 

My Grandfather was an engineer by trade, originally from Ohio having studied at Case University he and my Grandmother moved their growing family to Phoenix Arizona in the late 50's to start a new job at Goodyear.

Among the many projects he completed over a lifetime he had begun one of special interest to me. A 12.5 inch lens he was grinding in his shop to build a new telescope. Unfortunately time and life did not allow for him to ever finish his work. My Grandfather has since passed away but he left us the lens in the hope that we would some day be able to finish what he started. 

Project Overview

Kenneth Walko Memorial Observatory


Michael Walko:  

Scarlet House Creative Project


Project Milestones & Timeline

Our family would love nothing more than to complete the telescope my grandfather had planned on building and build a small observatory in southern Arizona in his honor. The Kenneth Walko Memorial Observatory would be a place that not only our family could use, but in the true spirit of learning and teaching that my Grandfather held so dear we'd like to open the telescope when completed up to students of all ages. Our hope is that my Grandfathers passion will live on through the young eyes of the next generation of astronomers. 

We're looking to partner with astronomy groups in Arizona that might be able to help us with the expertise to finish this project. If you have an interest in being part of this journey please feel free to reach out to us at 

Our goal is to have the telescope completed by end of 2021 with the observatory opening in late 2022. Please check back here and our facebook page for the latest on progress. 

Estimated Dates: 

  • Complete RFP process by 3/2021
  • Hold first partner presentation by 5/2021
  • Send lens away for professional review 6/2021
  • Begin work on telescope 7/2021
  • Complete main telescope body assembly 12/2021
  • Submit observatory plans to group by 1/2022
  • Observatory construction begins 6/2022
  • Observatory construction complete, telescope moves in 10/2022
  • Final assembly and calibration complete 11/2022
  • Official dedication 1/15/2023