Monday, August 27th, 2012
By Shelley Grieshop
Armstrong made impact on world
WAPAKONETA - Before Neil Armstrong could legally drive, he was soaring.
At 15, he took flying lessons at a former airport less than two miles north of his hometown of Wapakoneta. Blume High School classmate Joe Schwer recalled Armstrong's intense interest in space as a kid.
"There used to be a place (observatory) on Auglaize Street where you could go and look at the moon. He'd go there a lot," Schwer said.
Armstrong's death on Saturday at age 82 was a shock to many, including Schwer who shook his hand last month at their 65th class reunion in Wapakoneta. The aviation hero died from complications resulting from cardiovascular procedures.
"He was a hell of a guy. A really nice guy," said Schwer, who still resides in the community.
Schwer, 83, said Armstrong was extremely intelligent. A placement test advanced him one year in school and bumped him to the graduating class of 1947.
"He was a year younger than the rest of us, and he wasn't that tall ... he looked like a real young kid at graduation," he said.
Like millions of people around the world, Schwer recalled gathering around his family's black and white TV to watch Armstrong's famous walk on the moon on July 20, 1969.
"It was late at night, I remember, and we stayed up," he said. "Just the fact that we knew him, well, I got a kick out of that."
Wapakoneta Mayor Rodney Metz said Armstrong put the city on the map and so much more.
"He contributed a great deal to our community but also to the world," Metz said. "He most definitely will be missed."
In a public statement, the Armstrong's family described him as a loving husband, father, grandfather, brother and friend.
"Neil Armstrong was also a reluctant American hero who always believed he was just doing his job. He served his nation proudly, as a navy fighter pilot, test pilot and astronaut," the statement read. "He remained an advocate of aviation and exploration throughout his life and never lost his boyhood wonder of these pursuits."
The family has just one request:
"Honor his example of service, accomplishment and modesty, and the next time you walk outside on a clear night and see the moon smiling down at you, think of Neil Armstrong and give him a wink," they said.
The Armstrong Air & Space Museum in Wapakoneta - which opened in 1969, three years to the day Neil Armstrong walked on the moon - is hosting a Wink at the Moon gathering at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday. The event will include brief remarks, a moment of reflection and an opportunity to collectively "wink at the moon."
Armstrong was only in his 30s when he took that courageous walk on the moon and made the famous statement: "That's one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind." The Apollo 11 command module Columbia remains on display at the local museum.
Visitors from all over the country congregated this weekend at the museum along U.S. 33, where Armstrong's career and accomplishments are detailed. A black ribbon hangs over a plaque of his photo in the entryway, and a U.S. flag outside is lowered in his memory.
Officials at the museum released a statement Saturday reminding the world that Armstrong was a naval aviator, engineer, educator and astronaut. Their final wish for their beloved hero - "Rest in peace."
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