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Colton Villa wishes 'Godspeed John Glenn'

October 30, 1998

Residents at Colton VillaBy TERRY TALBERT / Staff Writer

photo: RIC DUGAN / staff photographer




Wilma Walker and about a dozen other people sat, eyes glued to the TV in the day room at Colton Villa Nursing Center in Hagerstown, waiting for the space shuttle Discovery to carry John Glenn on his second ride into space.

Walker, 83, and many of the others had witnessed Glenn's historic first flight.

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Outside the center on the Dual Highway, balloons drew motorists' eyes to a large banner that read "God speed, John Glenn," the words from mission control in 1962 as Glenn sat in the tiny Friendship 7 atop the powerful Atlas rocket that would carry him into the history books.

With the countdown at about 30 minutes, Walker and the other residents talked about their feelings.

Walker recalled that she met Glenn years ago, when her late husband worked in Washington, D.C. He introduced the hero to his wife, who had watched his liftoff from her home while her husband was at work.

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"It was very exciting," she said of the first flight.

Would she ever go up in space? Walker laughed. "I don't think so," she said. "I'm scared to death of airplanes."

Kitty Thomas was at the center visiting her husband. The two watched the countdown together. "I was home in Halfway the first time Glenn went up," she said. "I was terribly upset. I remember I had a dentist's appointment, and the dentist was upset too. He said, 'I'm not fit to do anything.' He asked if it was OK if I went home and he went home, and we rescheduled the appointment."

Thomas, 78, said she was afraid for Glenn then, but excited about Thursday's flight. She said she has never been in an airplane, and would never think about doing what Glenn was doing. "I wouldn't do it, and if he was my husband I wouldn't let him go," she said.

"I think it's terrific that he's doing it," said Dwight Miller, who is in his 60s. "I think it shows that age doesn't have anything to do with it."

Robert Moore, 92, said the flight he most remembers is the ill-fated Challenger flight that blew up seconds after liftoff. "I'd like to be there today," he said as he looked at the TV. "One of the other astronauts said he had looked into the heavens. I wonder if he really saw Heaven. I guess doing what he's (Glenn) doing is about as close to heaven as you can get. I'm pulling for him."

Niles Fox Sr., 78, sat on the edge of his seat, explaining the two countdown delays to a friend.

"I love this. I've seen every liftoff," Fox said. "I look forward to every time the shuttle goes up. It's a great thrill. It tells you that man will do anything within reason ... I'd love to go up."

Assistant activities director Debbie Boward, 35, hadn't been born when Glenn made his first space flight. Of the second, she said, "I'm anxious to see it."

Assistant activities director Diane Kaylor, 45, said her whole school watched the liftoff in 1962. "It was the big thing of the day," she said.

The group at Colton Villa counted down from 5 with mission control and then clapped and cheered as the shuttle lifted off the pad.

"That's great. It's beautiful. It's the most beautiful sight I've ever seen," said Fox.

Walker was shaking her head. "I never thought I'd see it twice," she said.

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