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Deke Slayton
Spaceweek 93
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Apollo 8 25th

Deke Slayton

Godspeed Deke!
Photo Credit: Mine
Program Cover from Deke Slayton's JSC Memorial Service
Program listing for Deke Slayton's Memorial Service
Program Cover from Deke Slayton's Service
Program listing from Deke Slayton's Service

Astronaut Deke Slayton, a member of the Original Seven, passed away on June 13th, 1993.  He died from complications due to a brain tumor.  On June 13th  of 1993 there was a memorial service held for Slayton at the NASA Johnson  Space Center.  The service was in the Teague Auditorium in Building 2 at JSC and it started at 1:00 PM.   The service was open to the public.

Several of my space enthusiast friends, my stepson Toby and I drove to Houston for the service.  We left home at 6:00 AM for our 4 plus hour trek.  Beside Toby and me, our party included Chris Seaman, Mark Shelton, and Andy Sheppard. We wanted to pay our respects to a man who had such a large role in our early space exploration program.

I was not quite sure what to expect at this service.  I assumed it would be a somber event like most funerals or wakes are.  Instead it was more of a celebration of life.

About one week before Slayton passed away he gave instructions about the service to his wife Bobbi.  He told her that he did not want people to get sad about his death at the service.  Based on those instructions, the service turned out to be a collection of stories and anecdotes about the good old days.

The people who spoke at the service were astronauts Paul Weitz (Deputy Director of JSC), Alan Shepard, Wally Schirra, John Glenn, Cosmonaut Alexi Leonov, Comedian Bill Dana, Pilot David Dowd (an old airplane racing buddy of Deke's), J. R. Thompson (a NASA administrator), Dan Goldin (NASA chief administrator) and David Hannah, Jr. (the major investor in Deke's company).

As the speakers came out on the stage, I noticed that Wally Schirra had on a bright blue blazer and snow white shoes.  When I say his clothing was bright, I was looking for the extension cord that plugged his jacket into the electrical outlet.  I was really questioning Wally's taste in clothing. 

Wally got up to speak and he said that Al Shepard had told them that they shouldn't wear any dark somber colors. Wally said "It looks like I've won this contest!"  That was kind of the tone for the whole event.

The stories told very interesting.  I wish I had brought a tape recorder so that I could have documented them. The service was supposed to have been broadcast on NASA TV.  Whether or not it was I do not know.  Perhaps a copy of that broadcast exists somewhere that does document the stories.

After the service, I was able to speak with Linda Godwin as she was exiting the auditorium.  Linda remembered me from the school visit that we sponsored with her.  It made me feel really good to be remembered .  We had a very nice chat.

There was one thing that bothered me after the service.  I saw someone approach Buzz Aldrin and ask him to sign their memorial program.  This was not the time not place for this.  Their argument was that might be the only opportunity that they had to meet him.  Well if that was true, then a handshake and the memory should have been enough.

We left
Houston at about 3:30 in the afternoon for our return home.  The drive took us nearly 5 hours.  The return was made more difficult by heavy rainfall.


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UPDATED : January 27, 2007
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