In this week of the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11, we've been inundated with reminders of the near-superhuman feats required to fulfill President John F. Kennedy's lunar challenge. Every once in a while, it's nice to be reminded that the men who made the trip to the moon with such professional composure were capable of deep emotion as well.
Gretchen Roth, a retired Fort Wayne Community Schools teacher, has just such a reminder. The yellowed mimeographed sheets were mixed in among the papers of her mother, Judy. Judy had received a copy of the letter on NASA stationery from her friend, Peg Hattersley, whose husband, Alfred Tim Hattersley, died in a plane crash in Calgary, Canada, on Dec. 6, 1969. He was a corporate pilot for an oil company; the family was by then living in Cody, Wyoming. The Hattersleys' son, Todd, received the following letter, postmarked Feb. 27, 1970.
The connections that led the astronaut to reach out to the now-fatherless teen have been lost to time, but the words retain their power.
“I just heard about your dad and I wanted you to know how sorry I was to hear of it. I had the pleasure of knowing him several years ago when he acted as our pilot on some hunting expeditions. I know you are having to make your own decisions now, somewhat earlier than you planned. I know that you will make the right ones, however. The decisions that you will make now will be important for the rest of your life. They must be your own, of course, but if there is anyway I can help- please let me know.
“I hope that 1970 is as good to you as 1969 was to me.
Roth has attempted to connect with Todd Hattersley, but has yet to succeed.