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Neil Armstrong: His Ohio hometown mourns local legend

August 25, 2012|By Paloma Esquivel and Richard Simon
  • This 1960 photo from NASA shows Neil Armstrong next to an X-15, which he flew in flight-training exercises.
This 1960 photo from NASA shows Neil Armstrong next to an X-15, which he flew… (NASA )

Residents in Neil Armstrong’s hometown of Wapakoneta, Ohio--which hosts tens of thousands of visitors annually at the Armstrong Air and Space Museum-- mourned the death of their local legend Saturday.

Chris Burton, executive director of the museum that opened in Wapakoneta in 1972, said staffers and volunteers were shocked and saddened by the news of Armstrong’s death.

“Most of us thought that he was going to make a full recovery from the heart surgery he had recently,” Burton said. “We certainly weren’t expecting any news like this.”

Many visitors want to venture beyond the museum into town to “see the church he attended, the house he grew up in, the building he worked in,” Burton said. Armstrong was born in Wapakoneta in 1930.

His legacy in town is such that the local Chamber of Commerce features an image of a man on the moon on its website and schoolchildren helped raise pennies to build the Armstrong museum, according to its website

Mayor Rodney Metz said Armstrong “was a legacy for our community. He contributed greatly…and he will be most certainly missed.”

Metz said he hoped to coordinate with Armstrong’s family to honor the legendary astronaut in a memorial.

In a statement, Armstrong’s family said the astronaut found success in his native Ohio “in business and academia, and became a community leader in Cincinnati.”  

“Neil was our loving husband, father, grandfather, brother and friend,” the statement said. He was also “a reluctant American hero who always believed he was just doing his job.”

National leaders, meanwhile, weighed in with remembrances and tributes.

"Neil Armstrong was an American hero who never looked back, always moving our nation into new generations of exploration,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) “May his example continue to inspire for decades to come."

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) remembered Armstrong as a man who “viewed his individual accomplishment in a larger context of public service and encouraged us to follow his example in our own way.

“He will always be remembered as one of the most iconic pioneers of the NASA community -- dedicated to the team that helped him achieve glory for us all.”

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paloma.equivel@latimes.com

richard.simon@latimes.com

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