The Man Who Painted the Universe: The Story of a Planetarium in the Heart of the North Woods

By Ron Legro and Avi Lank

Hardcover: $22.95

ISBN: 978-0-87020-711-2

160 pages, 28 b&w photos, 1 b&w map, 3 sketches, 5 1/2 x 8 1/2; E-book available

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As a young boy Frank Kovac Jr. fell deeply in love with stargazing, painting glow-in-the-dark constellations on his bedroom wall and inviting friends to an observatory he built in his Chicago backyard. As he reached adulthood, Kovac did not let go of his childhood dreams of reaching the stars. He began scheming to bring the universe home. While working at a paper mill as a young man, Kovac tirelessly built a 22-foot rotating globe planetarium in the woods. Despite failures and collapses, the amateur astronomer single-handedly built a North Woods treasure, painting more than 5,000 glowing stars--dot by dot in glowing paints. Today, Kovac and his unique planetarium take visitors to the stars every day.

"The Man Who Painted the Universe: The Story of a Planetarium in the Heart of the North Woods" introduces readers to the mild-mannered astronomy enthusiast whose creativity, ingenuity, fervor, and endurance realized a dream of galactic proportions. The story of this stargazer from Wisconsin's North Woods so inspired two newspapermen, authors Ron Legro and Avi Lank, that they sought to document the story of the Kovac Planetarium for a new generation of stargazers and dreamers.

To receive a review copy or press release, to schedule an author event, or for more information contact the WHS Press Marketing Department: whspress@wisconsinhistory.org.

Ron Legro is a freelance writer and former reporter, columnist, and editor for the "Milwaukee Sentinel" daily newspaper. He was editor in chief of "Wisconsin Reports", a weekly public affairs journal covering the state legislature. His freelance articles have appeared in the "Milwaukee Journal Sunday" magazine, "Milwaukee" magazine, "Corporate Report Wisconsin", and other publications. He was a speechwriter for numerous lawmakers and public officials and served as the City of Milwaukee’s director of telecommunications. A native of Antigo, Wisconsin, he is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He lives in Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin, with his wife, Michele Derus.

Avi Lank is an essayist for Milwaukee Public Radio and panelist on the "Interchange" public-affairs program on Milwaukee Public Television. For almost 40 years he was an award-winning reporter, columnist, and editor at the "Milwaukee Sentinel" and later the "Journal Sentinel." Born in Penn Yan in the Finger Lakes region of western New York State, he grew up in Rochester, New York, and holds degrees from Antioch College and the Medill School of Journalism of Northwestern University. He lives in Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin, with his wife, Dannette Lank.

In 2014, Wisconsin Public Television's Wisconsin Life program interviewed Kovac Planetarium builder Frank Kovac about his dream of reaching the stars and how he realized them. Watch what Frank Kovac has to say about his work (and the show he has put together for planetarium visitors) by watching this Wisconsin Life program, The Planetarium Builder.

"This quick and compelling read is recommended for anyone interested in an aspiring story about one man’s perseverance." -Dave Pugl, Library Journal