While the nation publicly mourned the loss of pioneering astronaut John Glenn last week, Trinidad and Tobago-born Kurt Shade said a private goodbye to his fellow Marine.
“The man’s a legend — two wars, the first (American) astronaut to orbit in space and went up at 77, so he’s the oldest astronaut in U.S. history. That’s incredible,” Shade told the New York Daily News.
Shade — a lecturer at Ohio State University and sprint track coach at Bishop Hartley High School in Columbus, who served in the Marine Corps from 1977 to 1980 and attained the rank of corporal — first met Glenn in 2012 on the university campus, outside the John Glenn College of Public Affairs. Glenn had an office in the building.
“It was just happenstance I saw him, and Marine to Marine, you say, ‘Semper fi’ (short for semper fidelis, the Marine motto, which is Latin for ‘always faithful’). When I did that, he stopped and we just talked,” Shade said.
Glenn sent Shade an autographed copy of the photo taken that day. “He signed it and wrote Semper fi on the photograph,” Shade recalls
Glenn was the only Marine among NASA’s first Mercury 7 program astronauts.
Shade remembers Glenn’s his wife would drive in her husband and two of them would go up to the office. “He’d stay for a while or they’d go and have lunch,” said Shade, remembering he’d see Glenn about once month and have short talks with his fellow Marine after their initial meeting.
Looking back at Glenn’s historic first orbit on the earth in the extremely cramped space capsule, he said, “I’m claustrophobic so there’s no way in hell I would have made that.”
TRINIDADIAN KURT SHADE, RIGHT, WITH JOHN GLENN