Our Ohio Boy

“I am, and ever will be, a white socks, pocket protector, nerdy engineer. And I take a substantial amount of pride in the accomplishments of my profession.” – Neil Armstrong

As you know, we recently lost one of our truest heroes.
When Neil Armstrong passed I woke to emails and phone calls from people telling me they were thinking of me. Not that this shouldn’t be everyone’s automatic reaction when we lose a national treasure, but I feel
everyone deserves condolences. He was, in the sincerest way, our boy. To everyone: I’m sorry for our loss.

If you were to ask a classroom of students what girl recently cheated on Robert Pattinson, they would know her name. If you asked them to name an astronaut, they would know Neil Armstrong’s name. Most likely they would not know any others, but they’d know Neil.
But what keeps me sane is knowing years after the world forgets Kristen Stewart even existed (sorry KStew) people will still know Neil Armstrong’s name. And for good reason.
 In a culture where true character and strength often gets bypassed for nipslips and redneckognizing, Neil Armstrong was a steadfast symbol of genuine grace, humility, and intelligence.
Armstrong did what a lot of today’s “heroes” often forget to do: he was true to himself. And he treated everyone with respect.

And now, a list –

1) Armstrong was notoriously shy and soft-spoken. Despite his moon-landing fame he chose to live a quiet life back in his home state of Ohio. He lived on a farm, taught engineering for a while at the University of Cincinnati, attended church, and famously shrank away from any kind of limelight. It is said that 90% of all Neil Armstrong autographs are fakes

2) One of my favorite moments from the Apollo 11 mission is between Buzz and Neil after they boarded the Eagle, but before they began their descent to the lunar surface:
Aldrin: What do you mean by bringing CSM [command service module] trash in here?
Armstrong: Well, that’s stuff I had left over in my pocket.

3) One of the most touching stories I read after he died referred to a story Armstrong himself hadn’t heard either. Even though I’m not able to verify the story and even though it’s in an opinion section, I still can’t recommend it enough. Read it here. It’s brief.

4) When I traveled to Kennedy Space Center last year I met and spoke with Dee O’Hara, the first nurse to the astronauts. She worked closely with every one of our astronauts from the start of the Mercury program. She asked me what I wanted to know and I simply asked her to tell me some stories.
She immediately started talking about Neil (I imagine most people ask her about him) and she said he was incredibly kind and incredibly shy. She also said he was humble. On the day of the Apollo 11 launch she said there were cars and people lined up around the Cape for miles. When she arrived at the facility she told Neil about the crowds,“Neil, you wouldn’t believe how many people came out to see you today.” She said Neil paused and simply stated, “Yes, I suppose people would make a big deal out of this.”
She said he wasn’t a fitness fanatic, like most other astronauts. And when she asked him why he didn’t exercise nearly as much as all the other men he answered “The good God only gave me so many heartbeats and I don’t intend to waste any of them.”

5) One of the best videos you will ever see of our quiet Ohio boy allows a glimpse at a side of Neil Armstrong usually concealed from the public eye. After Apollo 11 returned, Armstrong went on a USO tour with Bob Hope. They went to Vietnam. They became friends.
Skip forward to 3:45 to see 1980s scripted banter between them, but if you really want to see the good stuff from the actual USO tour skip to 6:15. You will not be disappointed. Armstrong is absolutely adorable in the most awkward, pocket protector kind of way.



6) And here, because I couldn’t resist, is a collection of some of the best Neil Armstrong photographs you may or may not have already seen. Enjoy. Then go wink at the moon.

Cool as a cucumber


Armstrong family photo (aka a lit match held against the fuse of a time bomb that is my biological clock)


You need two tickets to see this gun ‘n pizza show


What’s going on here is this an episode of The Andy Griffith Show? Ronnie Howard, is that you?


Neil standing next to the spider-like lunar lander prototype aka the flying bedstead (see next photo for what happens when you try to fly it)


Neil ejecting from the lunar lander prototype after it malfunctioned *cough*understatement*


He could float in space AND in water?!


Every night he’d come home after his family already ate. So he would sit, eat, and read his Wall Street Journal. With his shoes off.


You need two tickets to see this gu…oh right already did that joke.


Holding and/or breaking a LEM model


So cute I wana puke


Playing what looks to be a ukulele aboard what looks to be an aircraft carrier.


Go kart racing with the fam


That man could wear a button-up shirt that’s all I’m sayin’


Apollo 11 boys having a BBQ and most likely being bored to death by Buzz Aldrin who was notorious for cornering people at parties and talking endlessly about trajectory mumbo.


Move over Don Draper


Gemini 8 crew & backup crew. Odds are Pete Conrad (rear right) instigated these shenanigans.


Goodbye, dear Neil. And I apologize for using the words “nipslip” and “redneckognize” in the same sentence as your name.






  • Brett says:

    Fantastic. He’ll always be one of my heroes, though I was born twenty-some years too late to see him walk on the moon live.

    Your captions are hilarious, too.

  • Sam Ligon Sam Ligon says:

    I’ve always been in the Gil Scott Heron Whitey-on-the-Moon camp when it comes to all things space and NASA, but your posts on the subject are making me less narrow in my thinking. Lots of great stuff here.

    • Cathie Smathie says:

      It’s dumb how happy this made me, thanks.
      And for as much as I love the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo astronauts I definitely still have mixed feelings about what those programs said culturally & internationally at the time. And I have mixed emotions towards everything space travely post-apollo. I could probably debate with Greg Leunig for hours about the direction space exploration should take. Although he’s much smarter than I so I’d probably lose.

  • leyna krow says:

    No need to apologize – I bet Neil loved a good nipslip.

  • Fitz says:

    This made me tear up. I think you did him proud, Cathie.

    • Cathie Smathie says:

      Aww boo, thanks :)
      And I teared up while writing it buuuut it may have been the large glass of red wine that was my writing-companion at the time.

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