Hometown astronaut honored
"He was so into flying. When I look up and see the plane trails go by I think, 'Well, he’s up there and he’s watching me and all of you, keeping us safe.'"
This is how Katherine "Kit" Overmyer, wife of astronaut Col. Robert Overmyer, described her late husband at the dedication of a historical marker in Westlake’s Cahoon Park on Aug. 23.
Her remarks came at the end of the ceremony which featured speakers honoring Overmyer, who grew up in Westlake and graduated from Westlake High in 1954. Ohio State Senator Thomas Patton, State Rep. Nan Baker and Cuyahoga County Councilman Dave Greenspan were among those who presented proclamations to Ms. Overmyer, citing her husband’s accomplishments.
Dr. James Free, director of NASA's Glenn Research Center, described the highlights of Overmyer’s NASA career describing some of Col. Overmyer’s first duties as a capsule communicator for the launch of Apollo 17, the last NASA mission to the moon. After the space shuttle program began, he worked as a chase pilot when early space shuttles were dropped off the back of a 747, and he followed them as they descended to earth in his T-38 jet.
Overmyer was the pilot on the fifth flight of the Space Shuttle Columbia in 1982, the first shuttle mission to deploy communications satellites into orbit, and the first officially "operational" shuttle mission. He traveled 2 million miles, orbiting Earth 81 times, during his mission that lasted 5 days.
Col. Overmyer retired from NASA and the Marine Corps in 1986. He died in 1996 in a crash of an aircraft he was testing.
The Westlake Historical Society held fundraisers and residents and local businesses donated money for the purchase of the marker. The city installed a paved walkway, landscaping and a bench with a plaque engraved with a space shuttle graphic and "In Loving Memory; Robert F. Overmyer."