Saturday, August 25, 2012

Neil Armstrong (1930-2012)

The first man to set foot on the moon died earlier today, from complications related to surgery to relieve blocked coronary arteries. He was 82. Armstrong was born in Wapakoneta, a small town in west central Ohio (and one of the last with phone booths that only required a nickel to make a call). He was an accomplished Navy fighter pilot in Korea, and a test pilot for the government's high-altitude flight programs in the 1950s, before joining the space program in 1963.

I met him twice.

The first time was as a member of Dan Beard Council's Eagle Scout Class of 1971, held early the following year at Cincinnati's old Emery Theater. He was the keynote speaker, and we all got to shake hands with him. The second time was as a freshman design student at the University of Cincinnati. He was a professor of aerospace engineering, and he accepted an invitation to speak to our class about the aerodynamics of kite design, as prelude to our major project for that term. In addition to feeling somewhat out of his element -- an engineering professor speaking to a bunch of latter-day hippies at an art school -- he was as unassuming a man as you would ever chance to meet.

Armstrong did accept offers as a business spokesman for various interests, but had NO interest in politics. He was a man with no desire for fame or notoriety, only to go on with his life. He was the quintessential man of America's heartland, and the Nation is poorer without him.

Rest in peace.

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