Years ago, some of my buddies and myself would take off for Daytona Beach, Fla., for the Daytona 500.
We stayed in a private home, where “Maw” Hartzell provided a couple of upstairs rooms and served us breakfast. She was a wonderful lady and took great care of us. During one of our visits she told us about her son, who was the main chef for the astronauts at Cape Kennedy.
Maw was visiting her son at the cape when she was introduced to a couple of astronauts. Once the introductions were over, she asked one of the guys a question that had been puzzling her for a long time.
She wanted to know how was possible to go to the bathroom while wearing a sealed flight suit. He responded with a smile that was his first question when he was shown the suit the first time.
She enjoyed telling stories from her visits to the cape.
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A couple of my good friends – Sarah Taylor and daughter Alicia – both of whom I met when I was driving a bus for Beech Grove Schools, also told me a great story. Alicia rode my bus for several years and served as an assistant to me. They moved to Ohio for a few years during Alicia’s time in high school.
We try to get together for lunch when they come back to visit. On one occasion Alicia told me that she was in a school club that built a robot and entered it in a competition. They won several contests and qualified for the nationals in St. Louis. There was a large NASA display with a robot in it at the event center. The area was roped off, and Sarah was trying to line up Alicia on the opposite side of the display to take a picture. An astronaut yelled that they couldn’t do that.
He explained that the photo wouldn’t look right and that Alicia should come inside the display for a better picture. They exchanged email addresses, and he has helped her with some projects.
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About a month ago my wife, Lyn, and I attended a Christmas party/lunch sponsored by Franciscan St. Francis Health. The guest speaker was astronaut David Wolf.
Dr. Wolf graduated from North Central High School and earned a degree in electrical engineering from Purdue and a medical degree from Indiana University. He also trained as a flight surgeon with the Air Force before joining the staff at the Johnson Space Center. He has been to space four times and has taken seven space walks that total more than 41 hours. His longest mission was 128 days on the Russian space station.
I loved the question-and-answer session. He repeated the questions for the whole room before answering them. I noticed that when you are an astronaut, electrical engineer and a doctor, your answers can be quite interesting. He would get started on a response and at some point late in that same answer say, “What was the question again.”
I’d love to sit down with him and chat sometime.
Shonk is a 1960 graduate of Southport High School and a ’63 grad of Indiana Central College (now the University of Indianapolis).