A special man died last week, Astronaut Al Worden (February 7,1932-March 18, 2020). Colonel Worden came to NASA with the 5th group of Astronauts in 1966. He was the Command Module Pilot (CMP) for the Apollo 15 mission to the moon, and due to the standard rotation of the flight crews he also served as backup to Apollo 12’s Dick Gordon.
My first conversation with Al came at Dick Gordon’s Memorial Service at The Museum of Flight Seattle, WA (January 2018). I was there with my mother, Sue, Barbara Cernan, and Tracy Cernan. Al was friendly, happy to see Barbara and Mom, and to meet Tracy and me as we are close in age to his daughters.
I continued to cross paths with Al, especially as the world celebrated the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. Respected and admired by many, Al was full of life. A positive person, he truly enjoyed sharing stories of his adventures and accomplishments as an Astronaut. Yet he was not just about Al Worden, he cared about you. I remember a conversation with him about my return to Houston to live near Mom and Dad. Al was supportive because he recently moved closer to his daughters. We talked about Dad and his art. I am grateful for the time I shared with Al. He was a fine man, a loving father, an American Hero.
The Alan Bean painting featured in today’s post is A Window on the End of an Era. It was one of the beautiful images Al Worden stopped to admire as he carried out his checklist of scientific experiments and photography while Dave Scott and Jim Irwin explored the lunar surface. He said, “Every time I came around the moon I went to a window and watched the Earth rise and that was pretty unique.”
When I read Al’s obituary I learned something new. He was born and raised on a farm in Jackson, Michigan. My grandparents, Arnold and Francis Bean grew up in Jackson. Al and my father were the same age (born in 1932). And while my dad spent most of his childhood in Texas, the family lived in Jackson when Arnold Bean was overseas during World War II. Did Al and Dad have mutual friends? Did they attend the same school? Neither Dad nor Al mentioned their shared heritage to me. Dad said training for the moon left no time for small talk, so it is possible they did not explore their Jackson connection.
Al Worden flew in the Air Force. Al Bean flew in the Navy. They both flew to the moon. I like to imagine Al Worden and Al Bean shared a few years of childhood in Jackson. It reinforces the comforting notion of a small world. It strengthens the belief that anyone with extra effort and dedication to accomplishment, including 2 boys from a small midwestern town can achieve an impossible dream. For them that impossible dream was Apollo.
A Son and A Brother, A Husband and A Father,
An Engineer and A Pilot, A Poet and A Writer,
An Astronaut, A Sailor of the Stars.