LAKE CITY, S.C. — Shuttle astronaut Ronald E. McNair, remembered as a model to American black youth who died "touching the other sides of the stars," was buried Saturday near his hometown.
Minutes before the burial, 300 people attended a funeral at Wesley United Methodist Church, two blocks off Ron McNair Boulevard, the main street in his hometown of 7,000. Twelve astronauts, including South Carolina native Charles Bolden, attended the services.
McNair, 35, was killed with six other crew members in the Jan. 28 explosion of the shuttle Challenger. His body lay in state Friday at the Statehouse in Columbia.
Cicely Tyson Pays Tribute
"Ron and his crew mates touched that light" of the stars, actress Cicely Tyson, a friend of the family, said during the services. "They touched us. They touched the other sides of the stars for us."
The Rev. Eliott Mason, who served as pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Los Angeles when the McNairs lived there in the late 1970s, referred to McNair's role of mission specialist on shuttle flights.
"I think of Ron primarily as a man who had a mission for the kingdom of God, in the deep spiritual sense, just as he was a specialist on board the shuttle," Mason said. "I see his whole life as a person with a mission.
"I see Ron as a primary model for people around the world, but especially for young black people who need a model so much in this day. We need a model for youth in avoiding the obstacles of life."
A line of about 100 cars wound its way about three miles from the church to the rural cemetery on the outskirts of town.
Family in Attendance
McNair's two children, 1-year-old Joy and 4-year-old Reggie, sat beside their mother, Cheryl, near the grave. McNair's parents, Carl Sr. and Pearl, also attended, along with his brothers, Eric and Carl Jr.
An infantry squad fired a 21-gun salute and a bugler played taps moments before McNair's coffin was lowered into the grave.
Four Air Force jets flew low over Restlawn Cemetery, with one fighter breaking off in the "missing man" formation.
McNair grew up in a poor family in this town 60 miles from the Atlantic Coast in the heart of South Carolina tobacco country. Friends said he dreamed of returning to Lake City when his career in space had ended.