A Tribute to Al Worden

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.

Al Worden- Apollo 15
Alfred Merrill Worden (February 7, 1932- March 18, 2020), Col USAF, American Astronaut, Engineer, Command Module Pilot for Apollo 15

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.

ap15-71-HC-704
Apollo 15 crew, left to right, Lunar Module Pilot Jim Irwin, Command Module Pilot Al Worden, Commander Dave Scott

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.”

“A Window on the End of an Era”

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, Edwards Air Force Base around 1965

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.

Farewell Al.

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.

 

 

 

 

4 Comments

  1. Dear Amy,

    very nice tribute for Al.

    What can I say? It hit me pretty hard when I got the news about Al’s death.
    I’ve known him for about 25 years and in that time I’ve developed a great friendship. Just in the last 6 years I spent almost 3 months with him in Michigan, Florida, Washington DC, Houston and Germany.

    I wanted to spend most of the time with him again in his house during my stay in Houston this month. Unfortunately that was then no longer possible. We had a well organized male household in the last years when we were together.

    I have so many wonderful memories that would fill a book. Above all, there are some traditions that we had.

    There would still be so much to write and I will summarize this in another story.

    Al you are now on your second and final journey to the stars. I will always remember you fondly and you will live on in my exhibition “Apollo and Beyond” at the Technik Museum Speyer, Germany.

    You were a wonderful person and a great role model for me. I will miss you.

    RIP Al

    Gerhard

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Gerhard, I am sorry for the loss of your friend. Like Dad, Al lived a long, full life. As an Astronaut he contributed much to science and the spirit of human exploration. His contributions as a friend will be remembered, especially in the heart and work of your museum. I look forward to seeing Technik Museum Speyer one day. Amy

      Like

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