Unfortunately, our concerns were well-founded. Yesterday, on the AMSAT bulletin board, the official news of VO-52's passing was announced.
The loss of VO-52 leaves quite a gap. What I enjoyed about it particularly, was that it was the one of the linear transponders that could be used with very simple antennas. My V2000 vertical worked very well for a variety of contacts. I just wish I had started using it earlier.
VO-52 had a great downlink signal and was always in transponder mode (AO-73 is great, but I rarely hear it in transponder mode, or if I do, it's usually brief, as it switches over to telemetry). So, hopefully the new generation of satellites which will be coming on stream soon - some already in orbit doing other things, waiting to be activated into their amateur radio roles - others waiting to be launched.
A good time to remember to support AMSAT (a VO-52 lookalike would work very well, thank you...)