Astronaut Gene Cernan passed away yesterday at the age of 82. Cernan was the veteran of both the Gemini (one flight) and Apollo (two flights) space programs. As Commander of Apollo 17, the last flight to the moon, Cernan became the twelfth and, more importantly from an historical perspective, the last human to have set foot on the lunar surface. Like all of America's astronauts, Cernan led a life of accomplishment, and he surely was made of the Right Stuff. His obituary noted how he spent much of his final years testifying before Congress and lobbying the powers that be that America continue it's space exploration. He wanted to be sure that he would NOT be the last person to set foot on the moon.
Cernan's death now leaves only six living persons to have set foot on the moon, Buzz Aldrin, Alan Bean, Dave Scott, John Young, Charles Duke, and Harrison Schmitt. Duke and Schmitt are the youngest of these six, and they will turn 82 in 2017.
RIP Gene Cernan.
(right, with Buddy Holly)
This morning's paper also included the obituary of musician Tommy Allsup earlier this month at the age of 85. The Oklahoma born guitarist spent a lifetime touring with and serving as a session musician for artists such as Bob Willis, Buddy Holly, the Everly Brothers, Kenny Rodgers, Charlie Rich, and Zager and Evans. However, Allsup's place in music history is secured as a result of a lost coin flip. While touring the Midwest in the winter of1959, Allsup lost a coin flip to singer Ritchie Valens. As a result, Allsup was stuck taking the usual tour bus, and Valens got to ride on a private airplane to the next stop. You can guess the rest of the story. The coin flip took place in Clear Lake, Iowa, and the plane carrying Valens, Holly, the Big Bopper, J.P Richardson, and the pilot crashed, killing all on board. It was, as legend has it, the "Day the Music Died".
The obit tells of how Allsup kept that half-dollar coin for the rest of his life, of how he always wanted to reach out to the Valens family, but worried about how they might feel towards him as a result of that fatal coin flip. It wasn't until 1994 that he actually met with Valens' family members, and how warmly they greeted him, saying that he was their "only link to Ritchie" and how they would like for him to be the "brother that they missed having all of their life."
As I always say, you can find some of the most fascinating stories by reading the obituary pages.
RIP Tommy Allsup.