Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

'Reluctant hero' Armstrong honoured at Ohio memorial

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CINCINNATI, Ohio -- Neil Armstrong was a humble hero who saw himself as a team player and never capitalized on his celebrity as the first man to walk on the moon, mourners said Friday outside a private service attended by fellow space pioneers, including his two crewmates on the historic Apollo 11 mission.

Hundreds of people attended a closed service for Armstrong Friday at a private club in suburban Cincinnati. A national memorial service has been scheduled for Sept. 12 in Washington. Armstrong died Saturday at age 82.

Among some 10 former astronauts attending Friday were John Glenn and Armstrong's crew for the 1969 moon landing, Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin and Michael Collins.

"You'll never get a hero, in my view, like Neil Armstrong," said Apollo 8 astronaut Bill Anders, who praised Armstrong after the service for his wisdom and humility in the way he handled becoming a global icon. "It's going to be hard to top."

"America has truly lost a legend," said Eugene Cernan, an Apollo astronaut who is the last man to have walked on the moon.

Sen. Rob Portman eulogized Armstrong "as a reluctant hero" and said afterward the service was a mix of emotion and humour, with Armstrong's two sons talking about him as a father and grandfather.

"He touched the lives of so many," Portman said.

"He was the embodiment of everything this nation is all about," said NASA administrator Charles Bolden. Armstrong, he said, had a courageous drive for exploration while being an "incredibly humble" man who likely wouldn't have wanted the attention of Friday's service.

It included a navy ceremonial guard, a bagpiper corps and songs including When the Saints Go Marching In. Four navy fighter planes flew over at the end of the service, one flying upward in tribute to Armstrong, a former navy pilot who flew combat missions in Korea.

Raised in Wapakoneta, Ohio, Armstrong developed an early love for aviation.

He commanded the Gemini 8 mission in 1966 and Apollo 11's historic moon landing on July 20, 1969. As a worldwide audience watched on TV, Armstrong took the step on the lunar surface he called "one giant leap for mankind."

Earlier Friday, Cernan and Apollo 13 commander James Lovell spoke at a Cincinnati hospital to help launch a children's fund in Armstrong's memory.

Lovell said Armstrong was "a great American" who never capitalized on his celebrity and just "wanted to be a team player."

 

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 1, 2012 A26

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